Monday, March 01, 2010

'Seat belts for thee but not for me'; Unbuckled police pay with their lives

Nationwide, about 40% of police officers killed in auto accidents on the job weren't wearing their seatbelts, according to an excellent story by Moises Mendoza at the Houston Chronicle ("Unbuckled but unbowed," March 1). What's more, because of conservative data definitions used by the paper, the 40% number significantly "undercounts the number of officers killed while unbuckled." Reports Mendoza:
It's impossible to know how many of those officers could have been saved if they had buckled up, although one study says officers were nearly three times more likely to die in car crashes with their belts off.

But officers and administrators say police culture can sometimes discourage their use.

Some officers worry that their belts could hinder them if they have to exit quickly to confront a suspect — a seat belt can easily get tangled on a holster. Others fret they'll be unable to control violent prisoners while buckled up.

Police-related Internet forums offer tricks for disabling seat belt alarms and for avoiding supervisors who monitor belt usage by officers on patrol.

“The average police officer thinks most cops get killed by felons, and that's not true. Cops are getting killed in traffic accidents,” said Richard Ashton, who studies traffic safety for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “Officers don't think it can happen to them.”

During the past three years, 16 Texas police officers were shot to death, but 18 died in car and motorcycle crashes.
Overall, more than 2/3 of Texas police officer deaths on the job stem from traffic accidents, a state senate committee was told last year. (The other major cause of officer deaths is suicide - a total which dwarfs the number of traffic accidents and shootings combined.)

In addition to putting officers' lives at risk, police failing to use their seatbelts undermines their credibility with the public. This widespread acceptance among law enforcement of colleagues who flaunt the law on seatbelt use appears hypocritical in this age of "click it or ticket" media campaigns.

Officers told Mendoza they had good reasons for not using a seatbelt, but civilian drivers can make excuses too and that won't get them out of a ticket. Instead, the real reason so many cops don't use seatbelts is simple: They know other cops, including their supervisors, not only won't call them on it but will make excuses to the media if they're ever criticized for the practice. The attitude seems to be "seat belts for thee but not for me."


Anonymous said...

"Officers told Mendoza they had good reasons for not using a seatbelt.."

I certainly can't think of any. At one time, some pilots tried to shovel this crap on the FAA, saying they had good excuses for not wearing their safety belts in the pilots seat. The excuses they made were as lame as those used by some motorcycle riders for not wearing helmets. It takes me less than a second to get free of mine.

Anonymous said...

All true. Several of my friends and relatives are police officers, and none of them wear seat belts. Their excuses were the same ones I read in an article, mostly the "I need to be able to get out fast" argument. I told them that the risk of a traffic accident (plus doing everything they can to stay safe for the sake of their families) should trump the 5-7 seconds they may save getting out of the vehicle.

Sadly, most cops simply think laws don't apply to them. The "for thee but not for me" mentality. They also don't see the grave PR mistakes they commit by not wearing seat belts. Openly flaunting your disregard for laws + calling the public on the same thing = people hating cops.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add to my previous comment @ 10:34 -

Several of those officers also don't wear seat belts when in their personal vehicles and off duty - it has become second nature to NOT wear it! Every time I ride with my LEO buddy in his truck (when he's off duty) I have to hound him to wear his seat belt.

Anonymous said...

And remember the average number of LEO's in the U.S. and it's territories killed by felony gunfire has averaged about 50 per year. Almost all by illegally obtained handguns ( in other words not hordes of machine gun toting armor wearing evil villains ... that's another load of BS)

That's 50 out of roughly 1 million officers. (Source: FBI).

Last year in 2009, the number was 41.

THE reason for the propaganda about police officer dying in droves due to criminal is to do two things:

1. gain ever increasing but unneeded tax payer funding, and

2. to evoke "hero-worship" and trust - which in so very many cases is unfounded. Particularly when you start studying the incidents of widespread police corruption through out the nation.

Not a police hater (love and respect good ones), btw - just a BAD cop hater.

Anonymous said...

Not wearing a seat belt is just plain stupid - no other word describes it. There is a part of our community that just can't grasp this simple fact.

Cops often come from that part of the community and they picked up their attitudes there. Many cops had fathers, uncles, etc. who would rather crash through a windshield than put on a wimpy seat belt. Instead of learning from the stupidity of their elders, they just imitate what they saw.

Anonymous said...

For 3/01/2010 07:33:00 PM:

While breaking the law - in other words criminals hiding behind badges - at the same time they "Click it or Ticket" the populace in order to raise revenue.

Hypocrisy at it's finest.

They should receive FAR greater scrutiny AND punishment for breaking the very laws they use to abuse us.

Ans yes I always wear a seat belt - to not do so is moronic.

Although constitutionally I support ones right not to do so. I oppose the nanny state.

But far worse I disdain "law enforcers" who are proven hypocrites...

MailDeadDrop said...

In this age of fiscal belt tightening, it should be a no-brainer to deny medical and death benefits to any officer injured or killed while engaged in illegal activity. Not wearing a seatbelt = illegal = you crash & die, your widow gets zilch (and the taxpayers benefit!)

Anonymous said...

Family members can help a bit by applying pressure. If you are riding in a car with a knuckle dragging male who won't buckle up then he is putting your life in danger. I hate to break it to you but car accidents can happen.

Go to the internet and look up what happens to passengers in a car during a wreck when the body of the unbuckled wonder flies around the inside of the car and his bones (like a sledge hammer) beats everyone to a pulp . Look it up. Pressure is what stopped people from smoking in the confined space of a car. Put the same kind of pressure on the knuckle dragger.

One last thing - in some cases one of the knuckle draggers (KD's) is the lady of the house.

Anonymous said...

No seat belt, talking with girlfriend/boyfriend on cell, tapping out next donut rendezvous on MDT and chatting up dispatch, yep lot's of rules for us but not for the 'only ones'.