One of the officers on my shift was injured tonight when another driver decided the best way to merge into traffic was through his cruiser. The officer’s cruiser was struck on the driver’s side, and the force of the impact caused his car to hit a power pole. Thankfully, he walked away from it with minor injuries and should be back to work in a day or so. His car, I’m afraid, will have to be carried off to the scrap heap (with full honors.)
We can joke with the officer about the incident, and hang dented hubcaps on his locker, because he will be fine. Things could have turned out very different, though, if he had not worn his seatbelt.
I know, I know. The seatbelt can be a real pain for a patrol cop because we are in and out of our cars all day long. Seatbelts can get twisted, hang up on our gear, or just rub us the wrong way. However, they can also save your life.
Think of a seatbelt like your body armor: it is uncomfortable, but you wear it because you never know when you are going to need it.
A lot of police officers die in car crashes every year. Don’t believe me? Look at the stats. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, so far this year 122 officers have died in the line of duty. The top two causes of death? Firearms (48 deaths) and automobile accidents (34 deaths.)
This year is not an anomaly. In 2006, the leading causes of death for on duty officers was gunfire (49 deaths) and auto accidents (35 deaths.) It is the same for the year before that, and dozens more before.
Police officers recognize that guns can kill us. We train to spot people armed with firearms, and how to respond if we are confronted with them. And, we all are wearing body armor, just in case we are caught off-guard, and the bad guy beats us to the punch. Body armor has saved a lot of cops lives.
Cops better start recognizing that just driving around is killing us, too. Even when you are driving defensively, following every rule and technique you learned in the academy, some drunk moron in a mini-van can swerve into your lane and hit you head-on. The seatbelt, just like your body armor, can save your life.
Give your partners an opportunity to hang a hubcap on your locker: wear your seatbelt. Don’t make them wear black bands on their badge, just because the seatbelt was too much of a pain for you to bother with it.