Zach Rehbein is a lucky man … twice.
Rehbein, a Montana Highway Patrol trooper, was investigating an icy-road related accident on Intersate 90 in Mineral County last month when the patrol vehicle in which he was sitting was slammed by another vehicle.
The force of the impact caused the patrol SUV he was in to spin into a ditch off the shoulder of the highway. The driver’s side front was badly damaged and airbags were deployed.
A dashboard camera inside the patrol vehicle shows the light pickup truck that struck Rehbein’s cruiser rolling several times before coming to a halt right side up several feet down the side of the road.
Fortunately for Rehbein, neither he, nor anyone else at the scene were seriously injured. Rehbein was taken to a nearby hospital, treated and released for his injuries and resumed his duties a short time later.
He did not want to talk about the injuries because of legal matters surrounding the case. But he did say, “I’m a lucky man.”
That is a bit of an understatement given the fact he was involved in a nearly identical accident situation five years ago when another driver, deemed to be driving too fast for road conditions, slammed into the patrol vehicle he was in at that time.
“If I had been outside the vehicle I may not have been here right now,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming and had no time to react.”
The first accident was motivational incentive for his wife, Beth, to work with others in formation of the Move Over Montana initiative, which urges drivers to slow down in weather related conditions and move over whenever possible to the outside lane of a crash scene.
At the time of both crashes, Rehbein’s vehicles were on the shoulder of the highway with emergency lights flashing.
In a post on her Facebook page promoting the Move Over Montana initiative, Beth said, “Instead of going to sleep next to my spouse, I could have been by the Christmas tree hearing the news that he had been killed, that he was never
“Instead of planning the Christmas holiday, planning a funeral could have become the focus.”
Montana law requires drivers to move over as much as possible, when possible, as they approach roadside vehicles, especially emergency vehicles with flashing lights.
“Slowing down is a big part of safety on the roads,” Rehbein said in an interview from Plains, where he now resides. “The other part is paying attention to what’s in front of you.”
On a four-lane interstate, it is almost always possible to move over to the outside lane, Rehbein said.
“People need to slow down and give yourself plenty of room,” he said. “It’s a matter of focus and mental power that can avoid potentially serious incidents.”
He acknowledged most drivers are good at heeding the existing conditions and slowing down in general. Some, however, have even complained that the emergency lights are too bright and can be a distraction.
“I never know what I’m going to come across (on a daily patrol)”, he said.
His wife wrote on her Facebook post, “Move over if it’s safe. The personnel have so much to lose. You have so much to lose, but no one has anything to lose if we protect each other.”
This time, and the time before, he was and is, a lucky man indeed.