Walter A. McNeil, Chief of Police, Quincy Police Department, Quincy, Florida
ne of my top priorities during my term as president of the IACP is keeping our officers safe. Many times, when we think of officer safety, we only concentrate on vest wear. But we also should focus on one of the deadliest aspects of a law enforcement officer’s career: the roadway. More than 20 percent of the 19 law enforcement officers who died accidentally—as opposed to feloniously—so far this year were struck and killed by vehicles. The year 2011 is the first time in many years that felonious deaths of law enforcement officers were higher than traffic crashes. Yet crashes remain the second leading cause of death among law enforcement officers.
And it is not just law enforcement officers who die in traffic crashes or incidents; firefighters, tow drivers, and highway workers also die in roadside crashes. Additionally, traffic incidents can be very costly—in time and money—to our state, local, and tribal municipalities; traffic incidents cause about one-quarter of the congestion on U.S. roadways. For every minute a freeway lane is blocked by an incident, four minutes of travel delay time results. Finally, the likelihood of a secondary crash increases by 2.8 percent for every minute that the primary incident remains a hazard. Secondary crashes alone are responsible for an estimated 18 percent of all freeway fatalities and 20 percent of all collisions.
Despite the harrowing statistics, we have come a long way in the United States in improving officer safety on our highways. For instance, it is mandated by law that officers directing traffic; investigating crashes; or handling lane closures, obstructed roadways, and disasters on all public roads wear high-visibility safety apparel day and night. New technologies that are efficient and can expedite the resolution of crashes should be implemented. Likewise, agency policies and procedures and cooperative agreements with other disciplines have greatly improved law enforcement’s response to traffic crash injuries and deaths.
If law enforcement and other disciplines effectively, efficiently, and safely prepare for and respond to the primary incident, then congestion, as well as the frequency and the seriousness of secondary crashes, will be reduced. One such method is Traffic Incident Management (TIM). TIM is a planned and coordinated multidisciplinary process to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents so that traffic flow may be restored as safely and quickly as possible.
Consequently, TIM is the key to reducing the incidence and the severity of crashes and the congestion and the frustration they create. There are three fundamental principles upon which TIM is based:
- Responder safety
- Safe and quick incident clearance
- Prompt, reliable, interoperable communications
The IACP, with leadership from our Highway Safety Committee, is very supportive of the TIM approach and has been for the last several years. If your agency has not adopted the TIM model, I encourage you to do so. This is a top priority for the committee, and its members have worked extensively on this topic. At IACP 2012 in San Diego, California, September 29–October 3, the TIM Subcommittee will be presenting the roll call video it produced, Manage to Survive: Traffic Incident Management for First Responders. I encourage you to visit our conference website, http://www.theiacpconference.org, for more information. Following the San Diego conference, the video will be available to your agency at no charge.
If we are to improve the effectiveness with which traffic incidents are approached and resolved, the various disciplines—law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, towing and recovery, transportation, public works, and medical examiners—must establish open lines of communication and must anticipate and especially plan for major traffic incidents, uniting their respective expertise into one, flexible, coordinated response shared by all. If we, as law enforcement executives, pledge to be leaders on this issue and work with other first responders, we can successfully reduce the horrific deaths and injuries that traffic incidents cause each year. We owe it to our officers and to the citizens we are sworn to protect. ♦
Please cite as:
Walter A. McNeil, "Managing Roadway Events: Our Commitment to Our Officers and Our Citizens," President’s Message, The Police Chief 79 (July 2012): 6.