Improving your roadside visibility
Driver inattention is one of the leading causes of vehicular accidents in the U.S. As officers we are more at risk than most due to the "routine traffic stop." Traffic stops are one of the most basic and dangerous things we do each and every day. Not only do we have to contend with potentially dangerous subjects on the stop itself, but we also have to deal with what I believe to be an even more dangerous "subject" — and the one we least prepare for: other motorists.
In our business there are times when you don't want to be seen, but standing with your back to traffic on a dark and lonely or busy and congested street is not one of them. One of the best ways to protect yourself against becoming a victim of an inattentive driver is to increase your visibility to others on the roadway. An easy way I found to do that is to place reflective tape on the outer edge of the doors of my unit so when opened, any oncoming traffic will see the reflection on the end of the door. I also placed tape on the inside of the rear trunk lid. We have all had to open the trunk at various times during traffic stops and doing so almost always blocks your activated emergency lights, which definitely increases our risks of being struck from behind.
Placing reflective tape on your personal equipment such as radio mics, flashlights, batons, etc. is also an easy way to ensure that even in the darkest of situations you are visible to oncoming traffic. An added benefit to placing reflective tape on your personal equipment is that it makes your gear easier to spot if you drop or lose something after a foot pursuit by merely having someone shine a flashlight on the area where you think you lost the item. Most reflective tapes available today need very little light to be very effective. Sheets of stickers of various sizes and shapes can be purchased commercially at just about any sporting goods section of any retailer for as little as $2 - $3 and are generally geared towards bicycle/motorcycle safety.
While nothing can completely eliminate the threat of the inattentive driver I believe we can all find a few dollars to pay for the added safety this additional visibility brings to you. It may be the one thing that keeps you from being featured in the Officer Down section of this wonderful resource. Stay safe.
Related P1 article: 7 tips for roadside officer safety