Risk Factors for Injury in Law Enforcement Officer Vehicle Crashes

Published in: Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, v. 38, no. 3, 2015, p. 478-504

Posted on RAND.org on September 14, 2015

by Tom LaTourrette

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Access further information on this document at Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management

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PURPOSE: Vehicle crashes and being struck by vehicles are the leading causes of death among police. The purpose of this paper is to identify risk factors for injury in police officer vehicle crashes in order to help determine the most effective approaches to improve officer vehicle safety. DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: The study entailed a cross-sectional survey of officer drivers involved in vehicle crashes from 16 local, county, and state law enforcement agencies across the USA over one year. The relative risk of injury for officers in crashes with a given characteristic relative comparison crashes without that characteristic was computed to determine which characteristics are more likely to be associated with injuries. FINDINGS: 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 include 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 hold for all crashes and when minor crashes are excluded from the analysis. ORIGINALITY/VALUE: This study presents the first quantitative estimates of the risk factors for injury to law enforcement officers in vehicle crashes. Our findings indicate that seat belt use remains a critical safety intervention; driving under emergency conditions is high risk, though 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 that mobile data terminals are both a major distraction hazard and important source of injuries in crashes.

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