I have attempted to train quite a few rookies in safe traffic direction. There are many dangers in playing toreador to hundreds of two ton cars. I have a few tips.
First and foremost: Wear your reflective vest! Regardless if it is night or day. The darn thing is ANSI compliant for visibility and you are not.
Second, know clear hand signals. Hard to recreate here, but hand signals in daylight are much different than using that flashlight and cone in the darkness. Simple movements to direct the cars are best. Waving them forward, pointing toward turns, and holding out a hand or light for stop work best.
Next, you need your whistle. One long blow for stop. Two short chirps for go. This auditory addition to good hand signals is essential if you want to get their attention. And you do.
Make eye contact with drivers when possible. There is no clearer way to judge their intent than with seeing that they see you. Non-verbal cues can save your life. You can also watch the vehicle’s front tires. They are directional indicators.
Take a good position. When performing traffic control in a large intersection with turn lanes, stand in the debris field in the center of the intersection. That is where the cars don’t drive when traveling straight through or turning. Make this your happy place.
Do not stand behind your fully lit cruiser and wave a flashlight around in the dark. With a light bar, strobes, and standard illumination, your squad looks like a UFO. The drivers will not see you and your Maglite making Fourth of July sparkler motions out there.
If a driver is not following your instruction, do not aggressively walk toward them or block their path. They will undoubtedly win this game of chicken. You will just end up a two dimensional shape in the traffic crash diagram. Continue your attempts at communication from your happy place.
DO NOT TRUST THE DRIVING PUBLIC. They are unpredictable and can be easily confused by the chaos of an accident scene or emergency. This is especially true at night.
Two officers work better in a multilane intersection, if they are communicating well. One should be the primary and call the shots. This will minimize conflicting directions, which lead to paperwork.
Watch those larger vehicles. They take up more space in the roadway. I have literally had the side view mirror of a big truck brush my hair as it passed too closely. Yeow!
Traffic control is one our more dangerous daily jobs because we are so unprotected. Keep your head on a swivel, be paranoid, and use common sense. It can save your life.
Randall is a twenty-four year sworn police officer in Florida. He is his department’s K9 Sergeant and SWAT Team Coordinator.
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