10 Deadly Mistakes in Vehicle Operations - Training - LawOfficer.com

10 Deadly Mistakes in Vehicle Operations

What you need to know to avoid vehicle-related, line-of-duty deaths

Capt. Travis Yates | Wednesday, October 3, 2012

In 1975, Los Angeles Police Detective Pierce R. Brooks listed “Ten Deadly Errors” for law enforcement in his famous book, Officer Down Code 3. It was a violent time for law enforcement and the work of Brooks along with others played a huge role in providing a safer environment in regards to violent attacks today. While law enforcement deaths are down significantly from 1975, the profession continues to be plagued with an enemy that is equally as tragic as violence. Roadway-related deaths have been the leading on-duty law-enforcement killer since 1997 and it is time we add a new list of 10 errors in the minds of today’s warriors.
  1. Speed Kills: Excessive speed is a tremendous risk and, unfortunately, a week rarely goes by where we don’t experience an LODD involving an officer at high speed in a single vehicle crash. As a profession, we must weigh the risks and the benefits if the decision to drive in excess of the speed limit is determined. 
  1. Failure to Wear Seatbelt: Half of the LODDs behind the wheel involve an officer failing to wear this basic piece of safety equipment. It’s the ultimate tragedy and one our profession must change.
  1. Failure to Clear Intersections: One of the most common, yet dangerous, aspects of driving is proceeding through intersections. The failure to clear each lane, whether in normal driving or emergency response, can be devastating. Don’t let your lights and siren give you a false sense of security that can get you killed.
  1. Multitasking: Our profession has taken pride in our cars becoming our offices and with that, the distractions are many. There’s a time and place for technology, but any additional duties behind the wheel besides driving should be done with extreme caution.
  1. Tunnel Vision: When the lights and siren go on, we often experience tunnel vision, and combined with driving, this can be deadly. When you hear your siren, don’t trust your peripheral vision. Make a point of turning your head to look for hazards and other traffic.
  1. Failure to Wear a Reflective Vest: The simple act of putting on a reflective vest while on the roadway will save lives. There’s a time when the most important aspect of safety is being seen and the reflective vest makes that happen.
  1. Improper Tire Maintenance: The only piece of vehicle equipment between you and the road is the most important. A tire with cuts, poor tread or that’s underinflated or overinflated can be deadly.
  1. Improper Use of Tire Deflation Devices: The tool consists of a rope and sharp objects. Combined with high-speed vehicles, these devices have contributed to more than two LE deaths. If these devices can’t be deployed with the officer away from the roadway while using cover or concealment, then they shouldn’t be used.
  1. Fatigue: We may never know the extent that fatigue plays in roadway tragedy, but evidence suggests that fatigue continues to be a factor in our safety both on the road and off.
  1. Overconfidence: We must recognize the role that overconfidence plays in traffic crashes. It’s every bit as dangerous as complacency and we must recognize the dangers posed by vehicle operations.

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Capt. Travis Yates

Capt. Travis Yates is the 2008 Law Officer Trainer of the Year and is a captain with the Tulsa (Okla.) Police Department. He has been involved in police driver training since 1996. His website, www.policedriving.com, is dedicated to EVOC.


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