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LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY

Law Enforcement Officer Vehicle Siren

Law enforcement officers work in dynamic, high-risk traffic situations. In fact, motor vehicle-related events are consistently a leading cause of on-the-job deaths for law enforcement officers in the United States.1

NIOSH has several research activities and publications focusing on motor vehicle safety for officers. Law enforcement agencies and officers can use the following resources to reduce crashes and motor-vehicle related deaths.

Our Program

cover of NIOSH doc 2017-121 Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigations: A Pilot Program Learn about the Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigations Pilot Program.

Download the Program flyer

New Report

1st page of NIOSH Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigation Report 2015-01

Officer Struck By a Motorhome While Establishing Temporary Traffic Control on Interstate—Tennessee.

View the latest investigation report.

What job hazards do law enforcement officers face?

Job Hazards

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There were 900,000 state and local law enforcement officers in the U.S. in 2012.2 These officers face many job hazards, including: physical exertion, psychological and organizational stressors, and health issues.

Some behavior-related hazards that put officers at risk of a crash on the job are:
  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Speeding, particularly through intersections
  • Being distracted while using a mobile data terminal while driving
  • Experiencing tunnel vision from increased stress
Law enforcement leaders can promote motor vehicle safety among officers to prevent motor vehicle crashes.

What do we know about law enforcement officer crashes?

Key Facts and Stats

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Law enforcement officers spend numerous hours behind the wheel. In the last 10 years, on average, more than one officer per week has been killed on our nation’s roads (2006-2016 = 64 deaths per year).1 Most years, motor vehicle-related events — including crashes and being struck by moving vehicles while on foot — are the main cause of death for officers. 2016 was an anomaly in that motor vehicle-related deaths came second to firearms.

From 2005-2014:1

  • 1,479 officer line-of-duty deaths
  • 485 officer line-of-duty deaths due to vehicle crashes (33% of total)
  • 134 officer line-of-duty deaths due to being struck by a vehicle (9% of total)

Projects

Current Projects

Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigations: A Pilot Program

This project is using the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) model to investigate motor vehicle-related occupational fatalities of law enforcement officers in the United States. These investigations are identifying risk factors for fatal motor vehicle-related events that will be used to construct prevention recommendations. These recommendations will be shared with law enforcement agencies across the U.S. with the goal of reducing law enforcement officer motor vehicle-related deaths. The project is funded through an interagency agreement with the National Institute of Justice.

Project contact: Paul Moore
Division of Safety Research
(304) 285-6016; PMoore@cdc.gov
Project period
: 2014-2017

Evaluation of an Occupational Motor-Vehicle Crash Prevention Program in Law Enforcement

The focus of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of a comprehensive motor-vehicle crash prevention program in a large metropolitan police department to reduce the incidence of motor-vehicle crashes and resulting injuries. The second objective is to develop a plan to encourage other law enforcement agencies to replicate the elements of the program that are discovered to be effective. The project is funded through an interagency agreement with the National Institute of Justice.

Project contact: Hope M. Tiesman, Ph.D.
Division of Safety Research
(304) 285-6067 HTiesman@cdc.gov
Project period
: 2014-2017

Past Projects

Cops & Cars: Reducing LEO Deaths in Motor Vehicle Crashes

This research study identified the perceptions, policies, and practices of law enforcement officers that could affect their use of seatbelts while in patrol vehicles through a comprehensive survey. The final report discusses the prevalence of motor-vehicle crashes, frequency of seatbelt use, barriers to seatbelt use, and recommendations for agencies to reduce motor-vehicle crashes. This information will raise awareness of the importance that motor vehicles play in the mortality of law enforcement officers and further explore methods to increase prevention practices.

Project contact: Hope M. Tiesman, Ph.D.
Division of Safety Research
(304) 285-6067 HTiesman@cdc.gov
Project period
: 2009-2012

Resources

Publications

Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigations Program Report No. LEO 2016-01
This report details the investigation of the line-of-duty-death of a 25 year-old police officer as a result of being struck by a motorhome after responding to a crash involving a pickup truck/trailer combination on an interstate highway. The report describes the circumstances surrounding the incident, contributing factors to the outcome, and recommends interventions for consideration by law enforcement agencies, state and local governments and departments of transportation nationwide.

Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigations Program Report No. LEO 2015-01
This report details the investigation of the line-of-duty-death of a highway patrol officer as a result of being struck by a distracted driver after responding to a crash involving a tanker truck on an interstate highway.  The report describes the circumstances surrounding the incident, contributing factors to the outcome, and recommends interventions for consideration by law enforcement agencies, state and local governments and departments of transportation nationwide.

Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigations: A Pilot Program
NIOSH Publication No. 2017-121
This flyer provides information about the program’s investigations and reports.

Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Crash and Struck-by Fatality Investigations Program Report No. LEO 2014-01
This report details the investigation of the line-of-duty death of a sheriff’s office sergeant as a result of being struck by a motorist while working several motor vehicle crashes an interstate highway. The report describes the circumstances surrounding the incident, contributing factors to the outcome, and recommends interventions for consideration by law enforcement agencies, state and local governments and departments of transportation nationwide.

Fact Sheet: Preventing Work-Related Motor Vehicle Crashes
NIOSH Publication No. 2015-111
This fact sheet recommends ways employers can keep workers safe when driving or riding in a motor vehicle on the job. It outlines components of a successful motor vehicle safety program and ends with a checklist that employers can use to implement the recommendations.

Take Charge of Your Safety In and Around Your Patrol Vehicle
NIOSH Publication No.2015-109 (February 2015)
This flyer gives law enforcement officers five recommendations to reduce their risk of a motor-vehicle crash while on-duty.

Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Safety
NIOSH Publication No. 2015-101 (November 2014)
This document provides state-level stakeholders with an overview of the findings from a NIOSH project that gathered information on the number and severity of motor-vehicle events in the state of Iowa (crashes and struck-by injuries). It also provides data on specific occupational safety and health training, policies and procedures, and officers’ perceptions of this training and policies, seat-belt usage, and officers’ perceptions of risky work-related driving situations. Approaches for increasing and improving motor-vehicle training, information for policy implementation, and other approaches to increase law enforcement officer driving safety while on the job are also included.

Scientific Articles

Other Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Safety Resources

In the News

1National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund [2016]. Causes of law enforcement deaths.

2National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund [2016]. Law enforcement facts.

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