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Here are some simple and easy steps you can take to stay safe on our roadways and to help decrease officer injuries and fatalities. Be sure to remember these and put them into practice every time you're out on the road.
Wear your seat belt. Traffic-related incidents were #1 cause of officer fatalities 13 out of last 15 years. Forty-two percent of officers killed in auto crashes the past three decades were not wearing seat belts.
Be alert. Recent studies have shown that around 20-25% of crashes are attributable to distracted driving. This includes law enforcement officers, who are distracted by cell phones which many use in lieu of their radio. Though many agencies prohibit this, some do not.
Focus on driving. As stated in a June 2011 NHTSA "Building Safe Communities" bulletin, "Some [officers] forget that they are driving a 4,000-pound bullet that kills as quickly, and at a greater rate, than the gun on their hip."
Wear high visibility apparel. Practice high-visibility enforcement to reduce unsafe driving behavior, and be as visible as possible on the roadways.
Recognize that a true culture of safety extends off duty.
Conduct professional, safe traffic stops.
Remember your training. No traffic stop is routine. When conducting a stop, consider when and where to initiate the stop and the best location for the driver to stop.
Notify the dispatcher. Make sure that the dispatcher knows your location and the stopped vehicle’s license, make and model before making contact with the driver.
Create a safety lane for yourself. Be sure to offset your vehicle behind the stopped vehicle to create a safety lane. Turns tires out and consider a passenger side approach to contact the driver.
Communication is critical. Remember that the first words spoken by an officer may very well determine the tone of the encounter and even the eventual outcome. Similarly, the last words are also very important and may be the basis of a lasting impression of the officer and agency.
Stops at night or low light conditions: Use your takedown lights, and/or spot light to light the interior of the stopped vehicle. Placing the spot light directly into the rear view mirror of the stopped vehicle can help cover your approach.
Pay attention to the verbal and physical cues from the driver. Excessive repetition of requests or instructions by the driver can be an indication of a problem, as is taking a long time to find documents such as driver’s license, registration or insurance card.
Control the stop. You control that vehicle and its passengers for the duration of the stop. If you feel it is necessary, request assistance. Review case law for Brendlin V. California and Maryland V. Wilson as they relate to what an officer can and cannot do during a traffic stop.