New Study Reveals what Puts Officers at Risk Behind the Wheel
There’s a lot of talk nowadays about the hardships and tragedies that police officers face, simply because they choose to protect the public. Most people are now familiar with the Texas shooting of Deputy Goforth, who served the Harris County Sheriff’s Department for 10 years before being mindlessly gunned down while refueling his vehicle. He, and 105 others, have lost their lives so far this year, while in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. With dui cases you can easily see how it could have been prevented however in cases like Goforth’s, it’s difficult to imagine a method of prevention. Aside from mental health services, that might have kept the shooter off the street, there is little more that could have stopped this senseless, brutal act. We may not have a solution to pointless killings yet, but we do have data on what causes more officer deaths than gunfire.
Vehicular Deaths Outnumber Shootings 42 to 33
So far this year, 2 officers died as a result of accidental gunfire, and 31 were intentionally murdered at gunpoint. For comparison:
26 died in car accidents
3 died in motorcycle accidents
5 were struck by vehicles and killed
4 died in vehicle pursuits
4 were victims of fatal vehicular assault
Understanding the Circumstances of Previous Vehicular Deaths May Keep You Alive
The non-profit research company, Rand, released a new study that looked into the risk-factors associated with officer-involved vehicular deaths and injuries. The data used in the research came from 16 local, county, and state law enforcement agencies over a one-year period, and includes 854 incidents.
Most accidents occur during routine driving conditions. Although most people would expect to see an uptick in collisions when officers are en route with sirens and lights, the opposite is true. Researchers discovered that 80% of non minor crashes occurred when officers drove without lights or sirens. More than 70% of them occurred during routine driving.
Speed doesn’t increase risk of injury, but attending to an emergency issue does. Officers who are headed to an emergency call, with or without lights and sirens, are three-to-four times more-likely to be injured in a collision.
Some officers still aren’t buckling up. Sadly, several officers included in the study failed to wear a seatbelt. This increases the likelihood of injury as much as threefold.
The rate of injury goes up exponentially when officers ride motorcycles. Compared to officers who ride in cars, the chances of being injured are five-times greater, and the risk is ten-times higher versus those in sport utility vehicles.
Officers are safer when they have a partner in the car. Having another officer in the vehicle cuts the risk of injury roughly in half, though having a non-officer companion increases the chances of being injured in an incident.
A considerable amount of incidents occur when an officer’s vehicle is stationary. Approximately 30% of injury-causing incidents occur when an officer is not in motion. Across the board, these incidents account for about 25% of collisions, including injury-causing and minor.
Putting the Problem in Perspective
As noted earlier, there have been 42 vehicular deaths so far this year, and 33 gun-related deaths. Heart attacks are the third-greatest cause of death in the line of duty, taking the lives of 17 officers so far. Last year, there were 51 deaths related to vehicles, 49 related to gunfire, and 18 heart attacks. The trend continues on.
Keys to Staying Safe
Experts believe that in order to keep officers safer, more sport utility vehicles should be used, and those on-duty should not travel solo whenever possible. The use of motorcycles should also be restricted. On an individual level, officers are strongly encouraged to wear their seat belts, and to exercise additional vigilance while traveling to an emergency call.
The data collected by Rand seems to be on par with the stats for this year’s toll so far. Although no statistics involving at-fault parties is readily available, it’s clear that officers are not usually responsible for injury-causing collisions. However, being aware of the risk factors, taking steps to mitigate them, and remaining hypervigilant while behind the wheel may help reduce the overall number of vehicle-related incidents. Unfortunately, the necessary tools of the trade can turn deadly, if not properly managed, and the vehicles driven by officers, as well as civilians, are the greatest risk for those in the line of duty today.
Read More: http://www.lawenforcementtoday.com/2015/11/15/new-study-reveals-what-puts-officers-at-risk-behind-the-wheel/