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2007 National Stop on Red Week News Conference

Dangers Officers Face from Red-Light Runners

By Kevin P. Morison, NLEOMF Director of Communications, August 6, 2007

Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy, Michael Dillhyon (National Police Athletic League Association),
Judie Stone (Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety), Kevin Morison (NLEOMF), and
Leslie Blakey (Executive Director, National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running)

Good morning.

On behalf of Craig Floyd, the Chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund … and the 15 law enforcement organizations that compose our Board of Directors … I want to thank the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running for the opportunity to participate in this important public safety event.

Leslie and others have spoken eloquently and passionately of the devastating impact that red light running has on our communities. One aspect of the devastation that some people may tend to overlook is the impact that red light running has on our law enforcement officers - on the nearly 900,000 men and women who go out each and every day to help keep the rest of us safe.

When a red light running collision takes place, it is often a police officer who is the first one on the scene. It is a police officer who has to leap into action - and try to remove and save the often mangled and bloody bodies. And it is a police officer who often has the unenviable task of having to go tell a husband or wife, a mother or father … that their loved one is not coming home because someone else decided to run a red light.

Police officers are certainly trained for this type of work … but they are human beings, too. Ask any veteran officer, and he or she will likely tell you that serious traffic crashes - especially the type of broadside or T-bone collisions that are typical of red light running - are among the most difficult calls they have to handle.

But red light running has an even more immediate and tragic impact on our law enforcement officers - and that impact involves their very safety … indeed, their lives, in far too many cases.

For each of the last nine years, more law enforcement officers in the United States have been killed in the line of duty as a result of traffic-related incidents, than as a result of gunshots or any other single cause of death. And red light running by other motorists has certainly contributed to that deadly trend.

Records from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund show that since 1980, at least 18 law enforcement officers in the United States have been killed as a result of collisions involving red light runners - and the numbers are increasing.

During the 1980s, there were just two such cases. In the 1990s, there were four. But since the year 2000, there have been 12 officers killed by red light runners on the roads of America.

Those officers include 25-year-old Joselito Alvarez Barber of the Seattle, Washington, Police Department. Last August 13th, at approximately 4 am, Officer Barber was on patrol, driving through the intersection of Yesler Street and 23rd Avenue, when another vehicle - traveling at an estimated 80 miles per hour - ran the red light and broadsided the police cruiser, killing Officer Barber. Just five months on the job, the officer was engaged to be married.

Earlier in the year, on February 25th, 2006, Detective Juan Serrano of the Tampa, Florida, Police Department was operating his department vehicle … when another driver ran the red light at the end of the Gibonston Drive exit of I-75, striking Detective Serrano's vehicle. The 17-year veteran was flown to Tampa General Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. He is survived by his wife and three children.

And the individual stories of pain and loss go on.

Ladies and gentlemen … red light running is not some type of minor - quote, unquote - traffic violation that can somehow be brushed off or dismissed as something that "everyone" does once in a while.

No. Red light running is a foolish, dangerous and, too often, deadly and criminal act that is ruining the lives of far too many people, including the lives of far too many of our dedicated law enforcement officers.

The devastation of red light running is compounded when our police officers - the very people who put their lives on the line every day so that the rest of us can be safe - are seriously injured or killed in red light running crashes.

These senseless tragedies not only deprive the officers' families of their loved ones. They also deprive our communities of their protectors.

So our message to the motoring public is clear: please stop on red … the next time, and every time. And help protect your peace officers - they protect you.

Thank you very much.