OnStar Gets Detective Back in the Game

Posted on June 7, 2017

Detective Graham standing on a brightly lit downtown Chicago street at dusk.

It was Thursday, May 28, 2015, and Detective Dave Graham’s head was pounding. 

This was nothing new. In his line of work, Detective Graham had been shot four times and stabbed twice, and the incessant pounding on the right side of his head was one of the lasting ill effects of a head-on collision between his squad car and an errant pickup truck. 

He spends most days dealing with complex narcotics and gang cases through the Dolton, Ill., police department, which borders Chicago’s south side. But one evening, as he began his 45-minute drive home, he was excited. “I was going to get shots in the back of my neck for the injury that was causing the constant headache on the right side of my head,” Detective Graham explains. “I’d been getting epidurals every two weeks, but these shots would be a chance to try to get rid of the headache once and for all.” 

At 5:15 P.M., he merged onto Interstate 80. Within a few minutes, he noticed traffic slowing to a stop. He applied his brakes. He felt a sudden impact at the rear of his 2012 GMC Terrain. His head hit the window. His Terrain spun into a guardrail and he saw a semitruck headed directly for him. Instead of the right side of his head hurting, his whole head hurt. Then his world went dark.

Detective Graham came to hearing the voice of an OnStar Advisor.

“At first, I thought, where am I — what’s going on? Then I realized the voice was from OnStar — then I looked around and saw I was balanced on a guardrail, facing oncoming traffic.”

The GMC Terrain’s built-in sensors for OnStar Automatic Crash Response7 had automatically alerted an OnStar Emergency Advisor. This technology assists OnStar Members in getting the right help right away, even if they can’t ask for it. A trooper was already approaching Detective Graham’s vehicle as the OnStar Advisor continued to talk to him. “We work with the state police out here. They knew my plate and knew who I was,” Detective Graham says. He had been rear-ended by a vehicle going 80 miles per hour. The driver had been texting at the time and had not noticed that traffic had come to a stop, so he crashed into Detective Graham’s vehicle at full speed. In addition to notifying the police and Hazel Crest Fire Department paramedics, the OnStar Advisor had contacted Detective Graham’s wife, who arrived at the scene. 

The next several weeks were filled with neurologist visits, MRIs, CT scans and physical therapy sessions. While his original right-side headache remains, he credits his recovery from the May 28 crash to the quick and thorough response from his OnStar Advisor. “Without her action, I would have been dependent on someone calling 911, and there would have been a long, long delay,” says Detective Graham. “There was already a backup because of an accident ahead of me. I thank whoever the Advisor was that day and her swiftness. I had a severe head injury, but I was able to get treated and get back in the game.”

One of his first actions upon recovery? Purchasing a brand-new GMC Terrain. “I have bought GM cars specifically for the OnStar service that has come to my rescue both as a civilian and on duty as a police officer,” says Detective Graham. He has made sure his family drives GM vehicles connected by OnStar, including his in-laws. A new GM vehicle is also on the horizon for his college-age daughter. And like her father, she’ll be protected, always able to connect with a live, specially trained Advisor 24/7, ready to help with Roadside Assistance,8 emergencies on the road and more. “She’s about to graduate, and she’s going to have a new GM with OnStar,” Detective Graham says. “Unlike other services, you know someone’s going to answer.” 

Detective Graham leaning on the door of his GMC Terrain.
Detective Graham stands against a metal support beam on a Chicago street.
Detective Graham on a Chicago street at night.

Working with OnStar while on Duty

Long before his crash, Detective Graham was no stranger to OnStar. On a beat rife with criminal activity, thefts of rental cars are common. “They rent cars, then when the rental agency realizes the car is stolen, it’s OnStar that notifies us,” Detective Graham explains. Once an OnStar Member reports a vehicle as stolen, OnStar Advisors can pinpoint its location and work with authorities to quickly and safely recover it. With Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, OnStar can send a signal that gradually slows the vehicle, and with Remote Ignition Block, they can send a remote signal that blocks the engine from starting. It makes the job of people like Detective Graham much simpler. “OnStar tracks the vehicle for us, so we don’t have to chase it. We follow it in an unmarked car, then when we’re close enough, we tell OnStar to slow it down.9 It’s beautiful.”

He’s also responded to accidents where, similarly to what happened to him, the occupant could not call for help. “We’ve had a lot of those calls over the years,” says Detective Graham. “People were unconscious, and it was OnStar that made the call.”