NJCOPS DRIVE TO STAY ALIVE JUNE 2013 “Bumpers kill cops just like bullets do!” That is one saying that has always stuck with me from my Academy training. So far this year overall officer deaths are up 24% and auto related deaths are up 23%, according to the ODMP at the time of this article. With the summer approaching, the public will hit the road. In order to keep accident numbers down, drunk driver numbers down and fatalities down, departments will start up all sorts of initiatives with the hope of lowering last year’s numbers. With all of these extra vehicles on the road and the motoring public in “vacation” mode officers must take extra caution behind the wheel as well. I won’t even pretend to say that I have the best story for what I have seen someone doing behind the wheel, but I will say that some of the stuff has left me in utter amazement! As a police officer, the odds of being in an accident goes up tenfold just because we drive way more miles than the general public. The manner that a police officer often has to drive is also not conducive for the overflowing and congested roadways of New Jersey. I am sure that everyone out there has been the subject of a driving complaint one week and the next week you are questioned because your response time was too long. And besides that let’s not forget that a marked police car is a rolling 39:3-74 between computers, camera, lights, radars, cages, weapon mounts, patrol bags and let’s not forget about any personal items that we may need such as a phone or lunch. So what can we do to make us a little safer behind the wheel? First, make sure that your patrol vehicle is in proper working order. With all the budgetary constraints that have hit police departments, vehicle maintenance should NOT be one of those constraints. An exterior check of the vehicle for dents, dings or damage should be noted. A check of the tires, wipers, windows and mirrors will go a long way to ensure the safety of the vehicle. After our quick walk around we should check the interior of the vehicle. Take some time and set the vehicle up for you. This is your office for the next eight (8) to twelve (12) hours; set it up for your needs. Going on patrol is worse than going on vacation…between patrol bags, shotguns, rifles, lasers, shields, go bags and lunches a police officer makes three(3) trips to load up the vehicle. And, YES. I fully understand there are those days when this becomes impossible to set anything up due to pending MVA’s or stacked calls, but whenever possible try and set up your car the best way that works for YOU! Simple stuff such as taking care of the seat positioning, mirror adjustments, computer log ons, police radio volume, regular radio settings, positioning of all your gear and personal items before you go on patrol will go a long way to avoid accidents. An interior check should include checking the backseat for anything left behind. While driving, stay focused on the road…I know GOOD ONE. Between radio traffic, computer entries, phone conversations and eating your meal it seems that driving is an afterthought. This is why you should take some time and set the vehicle up for. Get to know the interior of your patrol car so well that you can get to items without even looking for them. Know your area: Every town, city or station area has the one area where traffic volume is highest or traffic is the most congested. While on patrol, note these areas and know that we can’t go barreling through them at certain times of the day. Judge your calls: Do we need to go racing to every single call? In police work NO call is routine. With that being said we do not need to go lights, sirens and Mach II to every single call. Do not be “the guy” that no one wants to drive with because everyone gets whiplash. Emergency Driving: When the time comes to get up and go then police officers go. Keep in mind that we have to play by the rules unlike the bad guys so make sure that you slow down at intersections and use due caution when warranted. The lights and sirens are no guarantee that the public see or hear you. Drive as fast as your skills, abilities and the vehicle allow. If possible it is always best to train and test your abilities in an Emergency Vehicle Operation Course (EVOC). The easiest way to tell if you exceed your abilities or the vehicle’s abilities is when you crash into the wall. One trap that we do not want to fall into is we must make sure that the paperwork and the report say the same thing that the camera or video says. Even if your department is not equipped with video understand that cameras are everywhere! A police officer’s job is to catch the bad guy…but understand that your primary job is to go home SAFE! So know that some violators are going to get away.