“Again this year, our dedicated law enforcement officers will be called on to give up time with their own families so the rest of us can travel safely to spend the holidays with our loved ones. To help prevent officer deaths and injuries this holiday season, the Memorial Fund’s Drive Safely campaign reminds motorists to pay special attention to officers on the roads and to follow other common-sense traffic safety measures.”
The period between Thanksgiving and New Year ’s Eve can be a particularly dangerous time for law enforcement, as millions of Americans take to the roads, and officers step up their safety patrols. Fifty law enforcement officers died in traffic-related incidents in 2012, five of whom died in the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Those 50 men and women left behind family, colleagues, neighbors, and
friends, all of whom were faced with tragic loss.
In August 2011, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiated an innovative partnership to promote law enforcement officer safety on the roadways and reduce the number of traffic-related fatalities. In addition to maintaining a safe speed and driving only when sober, drivers need to be especially mindful of officers who will be out enforcing traffic laws.
The Memorial Fund’s Drive Safely campaign promotes a number of actions motorists can take to protect law enforcement officers, other drivers, and themselves:
- Focus on driving. Avoid talking on your cell phone, texting, eating, or hunting for items in your vehicle while driving. When traveling 55 mph or faster, a two-second distraction can be deadly. Adjust your speed for road conditions, especially snow and ice.
- Slow down and “move over.” If you see an emergency vehicle stopped by the side of the road, slow down and safely move over one lane if possible. Forty-nine states now have “move over” laws, and violators can be ticketed and fined.
- Get out of the way of emergency vehicles. If an emergency vehicle has its lights or siren activated, slow down, move to the right, and stop if possible. Once the vehicle passes, do not follow it too closely.
- Stay off the shoulder. Driving on the shoulder of a roadway is not only illegal—it’s dangerous. Emergency vehicles use the shoulder to get to emergencies faster, where a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
- Watch officers’ hands as they direct traffic. And listen for whistles or other audible signals from officers on how to proceed.