Struck-by: Officer Safety
Struck-by incidents are one of the leading causes of injury-related death for law enforcement officers. These incidents occur when an officer is hit by a motorist while working outside of their patrol vehicle. Within the last year, struck-by fatalities nearly doubledi. Officers responding to crash scenes have the highest risk of being struck-by a vehiclei. With proper safety practices, these deaths are preventable.
There is a large workforce of state and local law enforcement officers in the United Statesi. Many respond to crash scenes while on duty and often must walk in or near the road to assist at the scene. When officers respond to a crash scene they are at risk of a traffic-related fatality.
Officer line-of-duty deaths between 2011-2020ii:
- 1,762 total deaths
- 367 deaths due to vehicle crashes (21% of total)
- 131 deaths due to being struck by a vehicle (7% of total)
In 2021, there were 27 law enforcement officer struck-by fatalitiesi. Struck-by fatalities are one of the leading circumstances for traffic-related law enforcement officer fatalities. Many of these fatal struck-by incidents occurred while officers were investigating motor vehicle crashes or assisting drivers on the side of the road.
Roadside prevention recommendations
By following proper safety procedures, officers can lower their risk of being struck by a vehicle while doing their job to keep others safe. Some prevention recommendations includeii:
- Maintain situational awareness
- Keep your head on a swivel
- Work within the traffic control zone
- Avoid the gap between vehicles
- Do not turn your back to traffic
- Always have an escape plan
These are not the only prevention recommendations that officers should practice at crash scenes to help avoid struck-by incidents. Other prevention recommendations to keep in mind while working at a crash scene include wearing your high visibility safety vest, understanding the chain of command, and communicating with other responders.
Move Over Laws
While these recommendations can help to prevent struck-by incidents there are also steps that individuals can take to prevent these fatalities. Move Over Lawsexternal icon have been put into place in every state to encourage drivers to keep an eye out and make room for officers on roadways. These laws remind drivers to move over for officers working in or near the road.
However, these laws alone will not prevent officer struck-by incidents. While these laws do help to prevent struck-by incidents, officers cannot only rely on individual drivers. There are circumstances when drivers may not be able to move over or away from the incident scene to provide the officer a safe distance from passing vehicles. For example, one-way roads, two-lane roads, and heavy traffic may prevent the driver from creating space for law enforcement officers. It is important for law enforcement officers to keep in mind that not all drivers will move to make room while working alongside or near a road. Thus, further supporting the need for law enforcement officers to follow proper safety practices during these situations.
Law enforcement officers report to crash scenes often and face the risk of being struck by a vehicle. Regular safety practices will help to lower the risk that officers face while responding to crash scenes. A roadside reminder of these practices can save officer lives.
- NIOSH infographic: Prevent Struck-by Incidents at Crash Scenespdf icon
- NIOSH: Law Enforcement Motor Vehicle Safety