In 2008, for the 11th year in a row, more U.S. law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in traffic-related incidents than were killed by gunfire or any other single cause, according to the NLEOPMF press release. The 71 officers who died in traffic incidents last year included 44 killed in automobile crashes, 9 killed in motorcycle crashes and 18 who were struck and killed while outside their police vehicles. Compared with 2007, 28 percent more officers were struck and killed last year.
“Law enforcement officers across the country spend much of their time patrolling our roadways to ensure the safety and protection of other motorists. This is especially true during the summer, when more people are driving more miles, often traveling on congested highways to get to their vacations,” said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. “This summer, and throughout the year, drivers need to pay special attention to the law enforcement officers and other emergency personnel who are there to make sure all of us can get to our destinations safely. I encourage everyone to follow the basic tenets of our ‘Drive Safely’ campaign: slow down, move over when you see emergency vehicles on our roadways and let our dedicated officers do their jobs and do them safely,” Mr. Floyd said.
“Drive Safely” is a nationwide public information and awareness campaign designed to reduce the number of law enforcement officers killed and injured on America’s roadways. The NLEOMF’s Drive Safely Web site (www.LawMemorial.org/DriveSafely) encourages motorists to sign a pledge and display a bumper sticker indicating they will exercise care and caution when driving around public safety personnel.
The campaign also provides 10 safe-driving tips that will help protect peace officers, including the following:
- Move over. When see you a police or other emergency vehicle stopped on the side of the roadway, slow down and, if possible, safely move one additional lane away from the stopped vehicle. Forty-six states have enacted so-called "Move Over" laws, and violators can be ticketed and fined.
- Focus on driving. Avoid talking on your cell phone, eating, hunting for items in your vehicle or engaging in other distractions while driving. Several jurisdictions now ban talking on cell phones or texting while driving. Even a split-second distraction can spell danger for law enforcement, other drivers and yourself.
- Give officers room on the roadway. When you see or hear a police cruiser or other emergency vehicle with its lights and siren activated, slow down, move to the right and stop if possible. Once the emergency vehicle passes, do not follow the vehicle too closely - give it plenty of room.
- Never drive on the shoulder of a roadway. This is not only illegal but also dangerous. Police and other emergency vehicles often use the shoulder to get to the scenes of traffic crashes and other incidents.
- Watch officers' hands as they direct traffic. Hand signals provide the most clear and straightforward directions to drivers.