Yousry “Yost” Zakhary, Director, Woodway, Texas, Public Safety Department
ear after year, law enforcement officers are called upon to respond to too many traffic-related injuries and fatalities. We have all been there—you pull up to a crash scene and your heart breaks. Your heart breaks again when you have to deliver that dreaded news to the victim’s family and loved ones. Many of these incidents could be prevented, but it takes both enforcement and education.
Law enforcement needs to work together to change the high-risk behaviors of motorists that lead to crashes through education and awareness, partnerships, and high-visibility traffic enforcement.
Strict traffic enforcement involves making sure all motorists and their passengers are wearing seat belts. Seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries during crashes, yet many people fail to buckle up when they get into their vehicles. It is our duty as law enforcement leaders to ensure that motorists and passengers are wearing their seat belts. The five seconds it takes to buckle up could save the lives of so many people each year. In addition to enforcement, state and local agencies need to raise educational awareness about seat belt use. The goal should be to make seat belt use the social norm, and both awareness campaigns and a visible police presence will help to accomplish this.
Distracted driving, which includes any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving such as texting, using a cellphone, talking to passengers, reading maps, and other activities, is another leading factor in motor vehicle crashes. Text messaging, which requires the most visual and manual attention from the driver, is by far one of the most dangerous distractions. A driver who texts while traveling at 55 mph drives the length a football field without looking at the road. In the states that have laws against using cellphones and texting while driving, officers need to be vigilant about enforcement. If your state doesn’t have those laws, advocate for their legislation to help reduce and prevent roadway fatalities. In addition, public awareness education campaigns are a highly effective way to bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving. Consider using advertisements and social media to raise awareness about the issue in your communities.
Law enforcement needs to work together to change the high-risk behaviors of motorists that lead to crashes through education and awareness, partnerships,
and high-visibility traffic enforcement.
Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI) is highly illegal, and there is often an increase in fatalities due to DUIs and DWIs around holidays. Regular checkpoints and visible police enforcement can help prevent these incidents and make people think twice before getting behind the wheel when they have had something to drink. Education and awareness about DUIs and DWIs can be provided by law enforcement officers, but having survivors or families who lost someone to an accident caused by DUI or DWI raise awareness and speak out through school assemblies or community meetings is also very effective.
Law enforcement officials and agencies need to work together to reduce highway and roadway fatalities. If we are united in our efforts and partner with our communities, these efforts will be successful. No one deserves to lose their life to a senseless vehicle accident, and it is our responsibility to try to prevent these roadway accidents from occurring. Every victim has a name and face, and it is our duty to protect roadway travelers. ♦
Please cite as:
Yousry “Yost” Zakhary, “Enhancing Highway and Roadway Safety: A Multi-Pronged Effort,” President’s Message, The Police Chief 81 (July 2014): 6.
From The Police Chief, vol. LXXXI, no. 7, July 2014. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.