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Distracted Driving and Police Officers

On June 9, a California Highway Patrol officer crashed into a Hyundai Elantra that was stopped at a construction site, killing a 15-year-old teenager. The cause? Distracted driving, but not by the teen. The CHP officer was looking at his computer and failed to notice that the traffic ahead had come to a stop. You hear repeatedly about the dangers of distracted driving. Teenagers are particularly targeted for texting while driving. But what about the impact of technology on police officers patrolling the roads? Personal injury lawyers are well aware of the impact that distracted driving has on the lives of those severely injured in a crash.

Law Enforcement and Distracted Driving

There are basically three different types of distracted driving:

  1. Cognitive - Thinking about something else, rather than the activity of driving.
  2. Visual - Looking at something else, such as a cell phone.
  3. Manual - Physically taking your hand off the wheel and doing something else, such as changing the radio station.

It's easy to see how police officers are affected by these forms of distracted driving on a fairly regular basis. They are always on high alert as part of their job, which means a great deal of cognitive distraction. With on-board computers, dispatch radios, radar guns, dashboard cameras and other equipment, it's a wonder that any law enforcement officer ever has both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel. So, are police officers somehow not affected by distracted driving? Do they have some special training that makes them immune from the dangers? Clearly not, as the June 9 accident and various others demonstrate. Unfortunately, you don't hear much about LE distracted driving or the existence of any programs to address the issue.

Training and Awareness

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any centralized organization that tracks LE distracted driving crashes. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) provides law enforcement driver instructor training courses. This seems to be one logical avenue to addressing the problem of LE distracted driving. Drawing attention to the issue is of paramount importance. Law enforcement must recognize there is a problem and assure the public that they are doing something about it. Until then, it is obvious that accidents like the one on June 9 will continue to occur, and lives will continue to be lost.

If you have been injured as a result of distracted driving, contact a personal injury attorney to learn about your rights.

Sources: https://www.fletc.gov/sites/default/files/imported_files/news/external-articles/Deputy-Magazine-Issue-4---2013---In-the-Line-of-Duty---Distracted-Driving.pdf; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-highway-patrol-police-officer-crash-car-highway-killing-teen/; http://www.cji.edu/site/assets/files/1921/distracteddrivingandthepoliceofficer.pdf

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