Since Vehicle crashes and being struck by vehicles are the leading causes of death among police officers, this study identified risk factors for injury in police officer vehicle crashes to help determine the most effective approaches for improving officer vehicle safety.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted of officer drivers involved in vehicle crashes from 16 local, county, and State law enforcement agencies across the USA over 1 year. The relative risk of injury for officers in crashes with a given characteristic was compared with crashes without that characteristic to determine which characteristics were more likely to be associated with injuries. The survey yielded 854 crashes, 90 of which involved injuries to the officer driver. Crash characteristics associated with a statistically significant increase in the risk of injury included multiple vehicle collisions, collision direction, officer vehicle type, officer vehicle being stopped, driving under emergency conditions, conducting traffic control or assisting motorists, not wearing a seat belt, and others. Most findings held for all crashes and when minor crashes were excluded from the analysis. The study produced the first quantitative estimates of the risk factors for injury to law enforcement officers in vehicle crashes. Findings indicate that seat belt use remains a critical safety intervention; driving under emergency conditions is high risk, but the reasons for this are unclear; better practices are needed to protect officers in stationary vehicles; agencies should carefully weigh the benefit of motorcycles against the vastly increased risk of injury they present; and mobile data terminals are both a major distraction hazard and important source of injuries in crashes. (Publisher abstract modified)
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