Police say distracted drivers are making their job more dangerous

Police mourning the death of a Jupiter motorcycle officer who was struck protecting President Obama’s motorcade say even routine traffic control is more dangerous now because of distracted drivers. It will be months before the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the State Patrol determine whether the driver who struck the officer will be charged with a crime. Officials say a 56 year-old woman slammed her pickup truck into the officer’s motorcycle, throwing him off and pinning him under the truck.

Presidential motorcade duty has cost the lives of at least 16 officers in the last 100 years, including a Palm Beach County deputy who was killed, also on a motorcycle, in 1992. The Secret Service wants to move the president quickly from one place to the other, so motorcades are high-speed affairs with vehicles barreling down highways in excess of 90 MPH. Along the route, local police officers must block off side streets and highway ramps as the convoy races by. The officer killed protecting President Obama’s motorcade was on blockade duty when he was struck.

So far this year, motor vehicle accidents have claimed more police lives than firearms, usually the leading cause of death. Police say the increasing number of distracters like cell phones and other media devices vying for a driver’s attention have increased the risk of any assignment where the officer is in or near traffic. Dignitary convoys double the danger. Drivers have to contend with unexpected road closures – routes are never announced in advance. Add the excitement from dozens of flashing lights, screaming sirens and a quick glimpse of the dignitary or celebrity, and paying attention to the road takes last place for many drivers.

The death of a police officer in the line of duty at the hands of a careless driver is a public tragedy, but dozens of other people suffer and die every day because of the negligence of another. Authorities are using this sad occasion to remind all drivers everywhere that controlling a vehicle is a full-time job. A split second of inattention can bring disaster.

Source: The Associated Press, “Colleagues mourn officer killed in Obama motorcade,” Matt Sedensky, Sep. 10, 2012