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May 27, 2014
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Travis Yates Police Driving:
Safety Behind the Wheel

with Travis Yates

8 dos and don’ts of officer safety on the road

We have a long history of making changes in order to make our officers safer — but those changes didn’t occur overnight and they didn’t come without struggles

In my seminars I always cover what those in the audience can do right then to make them or their agency safer. I discuss what activities we are currently doing that puts our officers in more risk than they need to be. It’s a common sense approach that seems simple but the fact that so many agencies continue to ignore these principles tells us it’s not simple in practice. 

Here are a few suggestions. You doubtlessly have your own ideas so let all of us know in the comments section and let’s make decisions today that can save lives tomorrow. 

1.) Don’t Post Response Times
You know that your officers have personalities that like to be in first place. What do you think happens when you publish a rank order list of their response times? 

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Anyone not in first place will likely drive faster for no reason other than to do better on a list. They’ll do this despite the fact that they have no control over many components that affect response times. Response times depend on your location when the call comes in, as well as a variety of other factors. 

If a supervisor or manager has a problem employee then they need to deal with that employee and stop publishing silly lists. 

2.) Utilize Telematics to Monitor Speed
Our vehicles have the ability to tell you all sorts of information about our officers’ driving. For now let’s just discuss speed. No one will argue that we lose way too many officers because of speed and this speed is not always a necessary part of the job. 

Using telematics, we can identify officers are violating speeds at a higher rate than others — to identify potential bad habits before tragedy occurs. Today, most agencies ignore this technology for reasons I hope to find out after this article is published. Folks get very upset when this is discussed but the fact is that there are agencies that have a common sense, officer safety approach with telematics. If we can save lives we must look at this. 

3.) Don’t Allow Officers to Use In-Car Computers While Driving
We may never know the tragedy and damage that has been done to us and others because of in-car computers. There are ways to keep the screen off while the car is in motion. Most agencies wait until tragedy to even consider it. 

Our profession did a lot of good work before computers, so we will be okay to disable them while we are traveling. 

4.) Do Routine Car Inspections
Our profession doesn’t do a good enough job on vehicle maintenance. I know budgets are to blame, but we should build a culture where our officers spend adequate time inspecting their cars on a daily basis. A routine check of the tires, brakes, belts and oil just may prevent something bad from happening. 

5.) Don’t Use Tire Deflation Devices 
A few years ago I would have likely argued against this one, but I’ve had enough — I’m tired of officers dying every year because all we give them to manage pursuits is essentially a string with nails on it. We tell them to stand by the roadway with speeding cars driving by, and throw an object right at a suspect car. Then we wonder why the suspects swerve around that object, many times toward the officer. 

While suspects will and do intentionally try to kill us, it is just as true that swerving around obstacles just so happens to be a natural reaction. 

6.) Do the Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT)
Is it more dangerous to keep chasing suspects and let them make all the decisions, or let a well-trained officer conduct a maneuver that has time and again been proven successful? Unlike tire deflation devices, this actually stops a pursuit, and instead of standing on a roadway you have the protection of your vehicle.

This is not a ramming technique, which is normally considered deadly force, but a precision maneuver designed to bring an end to a very dangerous activity. 

7.) Don’t Run Code to Everything
You likely don’t run code to everything, but is it really necessary to do it as much as we do? Running with lights and siren can not only affect us in a negative way, but when citizens see you coming, they can do all kinds of crazy things. 

Choose wisely when you run code and violate the rules of the road. It exponentially increases the risks that we take. It’s always about risks and rewards. If the reward is great, than by all means run code but it may not be the wisest decision to run code to a fight call that is long over, or that traffic collision that will be waiting on you regardless of when you arrive. 

8.) Do Scenario-Based Training
Most beauticians have higher annual training standards than we do, and we must not only incorporate yearly training but that training needs to have high value. 

We need to say goodbye to the annual “Charlie Brown” lecture and conduct training that will inoculate us in stress so we can perform well on the streets. 
Get a copy of Ken Murray’s excellent book called Training at The Speed of Life and give your officers training that will save their lives. 

Closing
I fully understand that some of these suggestions could be seen as extreme or unrealistic. I get that, and I’ve have been indoctrinated in the same culture that you have that’s stubborn to change. 
We have a long history of making changes in order to make our officers safer — but those changes didn’t occur overnight and they didn’t come without struggles. I would ask you to dispassionately examine these suggestions and seriously consider adopting them. 

The only question should be “does it make the job safer?” and if the answer is yes then nothing should stop us from pursuing it.

About the author

Major Travis Yates is a Commander with the Tulsa (OK) Police Department. His Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for SAFETAC Training and the Director of Ten-Four Ministries, dedicated to providing practical and spiritual support to the law enforcement community.

Contact Travis Yates




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