Roadside Safety, Part 1: What do the stats say?

Roadside Safety, Part 1: What do the statistics say about Patrol Officer Safety?

Life. Vitality. Safety.

Most of us take these for granted. Our lives are generally predictable and often the same, day in, day out.

For law enforcement officers, this isn’t the case. In fact, a 2018 USA TODAY article ranks police and sheriff patrol officers at #14 on its list of the 25 most dangerous jobs in America. While statistics vary from year to year, well over 100 officers lose their lives while on duty each year. In 2018, there were 163 line-of-duty deaths reported. As of January 28, 2020 there have been 11.

A 2014 Bureau of Labor study reported that there were (on average) 30,990 non-fatal, on-the-job law enforcement injuries from 2009 to 2014. Gunfire, as one might guess, is a leading cause of death and injury, but what may come as a surprise is that 41.2% of these injuries were transportation-related.

Law enforcement officers can be injured or killed on the road and roadside at any time.

In a 2011 survey conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 184 non-fatal roadside incidents involving law enforcement officers in the state of Iowa were examined.

A few statistics about these roadside incidents:

  • 47% were during traffic stops.
  • 41% were during a motor-vehicle crash response.
  • 24% were during a disabled vehicle assist.
  • 3% were during a pedestrian stop.

It’s safe to assume visibility – or inclement weather – or high speeds – or dangerous conditions – were a factor, right?

On the contrary. Shockingly, the study reports:

“Most motor-vehicle crashes occurred during daylight (49%), in clear weather (70%), during non-emergency calls (64%), and at speeds lower than 50 mph (79%). Most officers reported wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash (93%).”

Nothing about these incidents would have led the officers to believe their roadside safety was at risk – that they were about to be injured or killed.

Former President Barack Obama once said, “Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.”

Police officers keep us safe. Police officers maintain order. Police officers are willing to sacrifice it all for us. Police officer lives matter.


Part II: Keeping police officers safe in patrol vehicles during roadside safety incidents and traffic stops.