When it comes to police officer training, driving safety and training may not be a top priority, especially compared to de-escalation techniques or weapons training. But police officers spend a fair amount of time in their cars, primarily if they work as highway safety officers.
The danger level for police officers increases dramatically as the speedometer needle ticks up. Officers should be aware of their surrounding environment, including weather, traffic, and road conditions, before deciding to press harder on the gas pedal. When it comes to the occasional pursuit or the need to get to a call, officers should proceed with as much caution as possible.
Officers have a lot of technology mounted inside their patrol vehicles. All this technology, including laptops and other screens, help to provide officers’ need-to-know information, but they can also distract those behind the wheel.
According to statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), nearly 40 percent of police officer line-of-duty deaths are related to auto crashes. Officer distraction is usually viewed as an inherent risk of the job, as various technologies are engineered into vehicles and become essential tools.
Officers should use them wisely and at the right times. If they are running a code or receiving messages over their MDC, officers should wait until they can safely read and report.
It may sound simple, but wearing a seatbelt is a must for officers, just as much as it is for citizens. Most states have seatbelt laws, and most agencies also have policies in place when driving a law enforcement vehicle. Many severe injuries, or worse, could be prevented by just putting on a seatbelt.
Some officers might feel that wearing a seatbelt hinders and keeps them from being ready. With all the training that officers do, they should train to tactically remove their seatbelt rather than refrain from wearing it altogether.
Police officers must be ready for anything and everything to happen while on duty. This “what if” mindset helps keep them aware and observant. The same attitude should be the norm for police officers as they drive on the job.
To do this, officers should be aware of their surroundings and environment and be alert to vehicles’ actions and reactions ahead of them. Officers should stay vigilant when making a roadside contact encounter and keep their eyes sharp when passing traffic.
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