According to the latest reports issued by the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP), in 2016 ten officers were killed by being struck and killed by another vehicle while working on the side of the road. The number dropped to only four in 2017, but so far this year the numbers are looking pretty grim.
For example, this year: Officer Mathew Mazany was killed in a hit and run accident while he was out of his car helping another officer conducting a routine traffic stop. Agent Joel Pantojas-Fuente was pronounced dead after being struck by a vehicle while helping a disabled motorist on the side of the road.
The list goes on and seems to be on the verge of setting a record this year. This list does not include those officers who were struck by moving vehicles and ended up with non-fatal injuries that could cost them their career. Add to this the number of EMTs, firefighters, and tow-truck operators who have been killed in what is known as “Struck-by” accidents. This situation is one that deserves the utmost in attention from every member of law enforcement from command down to the officer out on his beat.
It’s Up to the Other Drivers on the Road
While most states do in fact have “Move Over Laws” that requires a motorist to slow down and move out of the lane closest to the parked emergency vehicle when it is displaying emergency lights, there is a problem. It seems that very few drivers are aware of whether or not their state has a law like this or if it does, what that law states. The easy solution is to visit this site and find out. But, the problem is that most people are just too lazy to bother.
The other side of the coin is that these laws are seldom enforced today as the officers or other emergency personnel are too busy taking care of the business at hand to try and enforce this law. This, of course, lulls drivers into no longer caring as they know their chances of being ticketed, are practically nil.
How to Overcome This Situation
Trying to teach the public to obey these laws can be very challenging. One method tried in Germany involved setting up a fake accident with officers just down the road. Each motorist that failed to stop to assist was issued a citation. This probably wouldn’t go over very well here, (think DUI checkpoints), but there is another alternative.
Here in the USA, education is a better option, one that can be exercised by highlighting these laws in driver’s education classes, ensuring it is a question on the driver’s license written test, and producing PSA video and audio ads that explain the laws and how they must be obeyed. These ads should also show or talk about the results of failing to obey the laws ranging from being ticketed to the death of a law enforcement officer.
Officers can also wear reflective vests and be more aware of their surroundings. Although it may not be “cool” to be seen wearing a bright reflective yellow vest, the alternative could just as easily be your dress uniform and a pine box. Do your part and keep pushing for better driver education and maybe one day the number of “struck-by” accidents and deaths will reach zero.