In July of this year, a police officer in Texas pulled over a vehicle to the side of the road. Traffic stops are exceedingly normal; many of us see them all the time. Unfortunately, this particular traffic stop was anything but normal. A passing vehicle struck the officer and sent him flying into the air. Luckily, he was not killed but it could have been much worse. Being struck by a vehicle is one of the top five leading causes of death for police officers in America. In 2016, more officers died than any other year since 2008. This is one of the most preventable causes of death for our law enforcement, but it requires a unified effort to reduce the number of casualties and improving police roadside safety.
Improving Police Roadside Safety
Solution 1: Increase emergency vehicle visibility
According to a study done by FEMA, simply increasing vehicle visibility is the main way prevent officers from being hit while on the side of the road. Some of the devices used to increase conspicuity are simple, such as fluorescent markers, reflective glass, and taillights. The purpose of these devices is to cause any passerby to recognize the vehicle without having to actively search for it. Some countries have national standards for emergency vehicles, but at present, the U.S. does not. A common sense solution would be to implement such visibility standards in the United States
Solution 2: Pay attention and move over!
It is not solely up to officers to prevent roadside accidents. As civilians, we all have the responsibility to be conscientious drivers. Common sense, right? That is the entire premise of the Move Over Law. All 50 states have enacted some version of the law requiring passing vehicles to slow down and move over when approaching an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. But laws can only do so much. It is up to each and every one of us to look out for officers on the side of the road.
The men and women who protect our communities face dangerous situations on a daily basis. Improving police roadside safety is a small action we can take to prevent the unnecessary deaths of any more of America’s law enforcement officers. So the next time you notice an emergency vehicle pulled over, remember to slow down and to switch lanes safely. It could prevent the injury or death of someone.