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The Bottom Line on Seat Belts for Law Enforcers

The Bottom Line on Seat Belts for Law Enforcers

Dr. Richard Weinblatt

It was on a priority call for police service as I steered my Chevrolet Caprice patrol car left through a sharp high-speed curve that it hit me. As I strained to grip the steering wheel and maintain my position in the driver’s seat, so I wouldn’t slide to my right across the bench seat, I realized how close I came to a high-speed loss of control and crash of my marked unit. While I don’t remember the specifics of the call, I do remember the epiphany that occurred.

It was a moment that changed a young deputy sheriff’s perspective on law enforcement officers and seat belts. Neither the experience of seeing fatal crashes nor the presence of a departmental policy did so. Lucky for me, my literally hands on experience ended well and I learned a lesson. I wore my seat belt from that call on. This article is designed to hopefully save law enforcers from such an experience or worse.

Tragically, in the wake of a second Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officer’s death, it behooves us as law enforcement professionals to renew the cry for seat belt usage. The aim here is not to cast judgment of LVMPD Officer Millburn “Millie” Beitel or the death five months earlier of Officer James Manor under similar circumstances. That will be the responsibility of the authorities in Las Vegas. Rather, it is to address the topic generally and serve as that reminder that may make a difference.

Within the last few days, FBI statistics have been released that show a large number of officers, more than the TV line of death version featuring gunshots amid a blaze of glory, die from incidents involving motor vehicles. Few officers engage in gun fights in their career. Almost every officer has been involved in an on duty wreck or two. I remember one where a hapless soul in a pickup had the misfortune of rear-ending a marked patrol car- mine.

It is easy to get hyped up and speed to that call, sans seat belt. As I, and many supervisors and trainers have said for years, if you don’t get to the call, you can’t help anyone. Simply put, getting home safely at the end of our shift necessitates that we travel to and from those call locations within that shift in a safe manner as well.

Veterans also know that some agency policies (as well as state laws) wisely dictate seat belt usage. And some of those employers will have your eligibility for workers comp or other benefits voided if it is determined that you violated the agency policy by doffing the seat belt. This is not a good spot in which to be sitting

Additionally, it seems hypocritical to be writing seat belt tickets when the officer himself or herself is not complying with the state law. With the seat belt offense being a primary stop offense in many jurisdictions, the idea of giving a defense attorney possible ammunition to use to discredit you at a suppression hearing is contrary to good, ethical policing. We stand for more in this profession.

And speaking of hypocritical, wearing the seat belt is good leadership by example. Nothing irks a person who has gotten a ticket for an offense than seeing an officer committing that very offense and operating with impunity. Showing the community, especially our younger, more impressionable folks, that even police officers wear seatbelts sends a message to the community of which we are a part.

The bottom line: wear your seat belt. If not for yourself, than for your families and for your chosen profession.

Related Reads:

  • Tumblr_lpagx176uq1qls45bo1_r1_500_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    I think if you expect general public to wear their seat belts then you should too.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    the belt works. Mr. Lawman, Steven Segall should lead by example and wear his seat belt.

  • Jack-sparrow-pirates-of-the-caribbean_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    Some of the officers I talk to say they usually don't wear a seat belt because of how uncomfortable it is, and that not wearing one helps them get out of their squad car faster in bad situations. Personally, I would wear one since I really don't want to end up through the windshield lol. Very good article though!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    I've been in too many wrecks to consider not wearing my seat belt. One of them wasn't even my fault. In that one, a guy was going at least 20mph more than I was, and tagged me on the right-rear bumper. That was some ride across the median, two lanes of oncoming tractor-trailers, down, around, and back up the bank on the other side. Pretty fun, actually. It would have been no fun without the seat belt.

  • Ofc


    about 5 years ago


    I was in a crash about six years ago. I was on my way to work and I fell asleep at the wheel. I hit a tree and broke my femur and was thrown into the passenger side of the vehicle. I now have a screw in my hip and a pin in my leg. I NOW WARE MY SEAT BELT ALL THE TIME.

  • Crest_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Excellent article. I'm convinced. Seat belt, from now on.

  • 10-05-09_1754_max50


    about 5 years ago


    If you've ever T-boned another car at 35 MPH like I have you will wear your seat belt no matter how slow or fast you are going. A lady turned in front of me with no warning and no time to swerve or brake. My truck hit her car twice, once broadside and again after it spun around 180 degrees. Both cars were completely totalled but the only injury sustained in my vehicle was a bruise all the way across my girlfriend's chest--from the seatbelt.

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 5 years ago


    It is the power of example, not the example of power that teaches best.

  • Wind_therapy-_angel_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Good article, Safety first as said in another post, you can't get there if you get in an accident and get injured. Think about your family,It could make the difference of you making it home at end of shift, fastening my seat belt is the first step in starting my vehicle, I never run the risk of forgetting.
    Stay safe in your vehicle, We all know you can go from a lunch break to running code in a split second, just make it a good habit. Stay safe, watch your six, keep your head low.

  • Image_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Very good article.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    It seems like everyone has a different opinion on seat belts, so I'll just leave it at that. For me though, I'm not going to take a chance of not wearing it and something happening. It's kind of like having a gun. I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it!

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50


    over 5 years ago


    My seat belt would have kept me from serious injury in an accident many years ago, so take it from the voice of experience: Please, PLEASE wear your seat belt !!

  • 11487_max50


    over 5 years ago


    great article. Notes: Fire Departments practice putting on and removing seatbelts, take the time to practice and feel the seatbelt so that if you do have to remove it during a hairy situation you don't have to take your eyes off of the subject.

    most seats are made to throw you back into the seat (think of a race car seat) it should feel like a workout to get out of the seat becuse that means the seat is holding you back, that is the idea here. it keeps you from sliding around and in control of the vehicle. be safe... peace.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    Fact is that 33 officers were killed in automobile collisions last years and 39 this year. I wonder how many of our brothers and sisters would still be with us if they had just worn their seat belts. I wouldn't think of going to work without my vest and would feel naked without it. Same for the seat belt. It is a piece of safety equipment and should be used that way.

    Usually when i am in the area of a call for service or just prior to a traffic stop I will take it off. All other times it stays on.

  • Irishflag_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Good article, safety first. Sometimes people need to be reminded.

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