Larsen says that while in-car technology makes officers a lot more efficient, it also offers more distractions. “If they can’t manage those properly, then it just causes us more issues. But some of these hands-free cars that are coming out allow officers to keep their eyes up, and not focus so much within the cab of their vehicle. The more we can do to keep the officer’s eyes out and looking down the road, the better.”
Re-write policy to better protect drivers
Some might say it’s no wonder the number of police-involved traffic fatalities is climbing. While many incidents are truly unavoidable, public safety professionals must battle daily with an increasing number of distractions. But the problem doesn’t end there. NLEOMF and other sources indicate that simple carelessness is a factor that is not to be glossed over.
Statistics show not all cops are fastening their seat belts, while others are simply driving too fast. Now may be a good time to review your agencies’ day-to-day driving practices in addition to clocking in more time at “school” and researching hands-free options. As technology changes, so does our behavior. Does your agency have texting policies in place? How about enforced seat belt laws?
“It’s mind-boggling that large numbers of police officers are being killed for not wearing their seat belt,” says Brown. “And there’s a number of different guesses at why they aren’t. We had a police chief recently talk to us about the number of accidents his agency was having and the number of injuries, and we sent two people to look at their driver training program. We thought their driver training program was excellent, so our guys did a little bit of riding and looking at policy. We found there was no policy about wearing the seat belt, and there was no policy about texting. And what was happening with these folks is they were driving down the road texting on their cell phones and drifting off into the other lane and having collisions, and with no seat belts, the officers were getting injured.”
There isn’t a silver-bullet remedy for accidents, and working inside an LE mobile office will always be risky. But Brown says this awareness, this culture of change has already radically altered training practices.
Instead of “getting there fast,” the focus is now on “getting there safely.”