One moment traffic control agent Jennifer Schlosser was guiding rush-hour traffic through a congested intersection in downtown Minneapolis. The next she lay motionless on the pavement.
Schlosser, 30, said she could not get out of the way of the red SUV that made an illegal turn and plowed into her on Sept. 12 as she stood at 3rd Street and 5th Avenue S. Six months later, she still feels the crushing impact that threw her more than 12 feet. She is recovering from surgery to repair torn ligaments — one in each knee.
“My whole body was hit. My legs don’t walk like they used to and I can’t stand very long, but I am still here,” Schlosser, said Tuesday. “That was my first ambulance ride, and I hope to never have another one again.”
A security camera on a parking garage recorded the incident. Prosecutors used the video to charge the driver with two misdemeanors. The driver pleaded guilty to one and could still face paying restitution, said Deputy City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng. Schlosser has seen the video a few times, but still has a hard time watching it.
“Still a shock,” said Schlosser, a mother of two who has worked as a traffic control agent with the Minneapolis Police Department for 4½ years.
Schlosser was directing motorists in the far left lane of northbound 5th Avenue to turn left onto 3rd Street and drivers in the middle lane on 5th to proceed north. Normally drivers in the middle lane on 5th are permitted to turn left onto 3rd. The SUV driver was in the middle lane on 5th Avenue and disobeyed Schlosser’s command to go straight and turned onto 3rd, where he hit her.
Traffic control agents have the power to override all signals, signs and pavement markings to safely and efficiently direct traffic, and drivers are required to follow their directives, Heng said.
It’s not clear why the driver made the turn against Schlosser’s orders, but “it’s a reasonable assumption that something had distracted him,” Heng said.
Schlosser’s case is extreme, but not unusual. Last year city officials said three or four other officers were clipped or grazed by motorists. All of the 34 traffic control agents can tell a story of a near-miss when a motorist disobeyed their orders. Other have been punched in the face by a driver being issued a citation and it’s common to be on the receiving end of a torrent of profanities and insults. “In most cases, they were able to step away and save themselves, but these are dangerous situations and becoming more increasingly so,” said Clara Schmit-Gonzalez, the city’s director of Code Compliance and Traffic Control. “We are asking everyone to be aware of them and keep us all safe.”