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Reminder to Motorists: As You Travel this Holiday Season, Pay Special Attention to Law Enforcement Officers Patrolling our Roadways

Nationally, three officers were killed in traffic-related incidents between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve 2010

November 22, 2011

Washington, DC — On December 12, 2010, Sergeant Wesley Whitmore, Jr. of the Polk County (FL) Sheriff’s Office was struck and killed by a driver who lost control of an SUV and crashed in a convenience store parking lot. Sergeant Whitmore had just exited his patrol car when the SUV collided with his vehicle, which spun around and struck Sergeant Whitmore. A 15-year law enforcement veteran and retired Major in the U.S. Air Force, the 60-year-old husband, father and grandfather was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his fatal injuries.

Sergeant Whitmore was one of three officers killed in the line of duty during the holiday season in 2010. The others were Haralson County (GA) Deputy Sheriff Rayford Roberts and Harker Heights (TX) Police Officer Andrew Rameas. The period between the Thanksgiving holiday and New Year’s Day can be a particularly dangerous time for law enforcement, as millions of Americans take to the roads and officers step up their safety patrols. Seventy-one law enforcement officers died in traffic-related incidents in 2010 — the leading cause of officer fatalities for the 13th consecutive year.

To help prevent officer deaths and injuries this holiday season, the Drive Safely campaign of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is reminding motorists to pay special attention to officers on the roads and to follow other common-sense traffic safety measures.

“Again this year, our dedicated law enforcement officers will be called on to give up time with their own families so the rest of us can travel safely to spend the holidays with our loved ones. Every time we get behind the wheel — and especially during the holidays — we owe these brave men and women our full attention and consideration,” said Memorial Fund Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd.

“In addition to doing the obvious things — not speeding or driving drunk — drivers need to be especially mindful of officers who will be out enforcing traffic laws. If you see a police cruiser stopped by the side of the road, please slow down, move over and allow the officers to do their jobs safely and effectively,” Mr. Floyd added.

The Memorial Fund’s Drive Safely campaign promotes a number of actions motorists can take to protect law enforcement officers, other drivers and themselves:

  • Focus on driving. Avoid talking on your cell phone, eating, or hunting for items in your vehicle while driving. When traveling 55 mph or faster, a two-second distraction can be deadly. Adjust your speed for road conditions, especially snow and ice.
  • Slow down and “move over.” If you see an emergency vehicle stopped by the side of the road, slow down and safely move over one lane if possible. Forty-eight states now have “move over” laws, and violators can be ticketed and fined.
  • Get out of the way of emergency vehicles. If an emergency vehicle has its lights or siren activated, slow down, move to the right and stop if possible. Once the vehicle passes, do not follow it too closely.
  • Stay off the shoulder. Driving on the shoulder of a roadway is not only illegal—it’s dangerous. Emergency vehicles use the shoulder to get to emergencies faster, where a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
  • Watch officers’ hands as they direct traffic. And listen for whistles or other audible signals from officers on how to proceed.

For more information, safety tips and resources, visit the Drive Safely website.

Steve Groeninger | (202) 737-7135