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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.

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  • 14600_10200352713679693_171098802_n_max50


    over 5 years ago


    no matter officer or not ...always should wear your seat belt they save lifes..proven over and over again

  • Thi_seal_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Good article.

  • P1010058_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Seatbelts are good. I wont wear mine while in the city but as soon as I know I'm leaving or getting ready to leave the city, then I put it on and wear it. Our code states that Law Enforcement or Emergency vehicles are not required to.

  • Afosi_mourning_badge_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Drivers should always wear seat belts...period.

  • Fox_lake_revised_artwork_11-13-09_max50


    over 5 years ago


    try to wear it as much as possible, i encourage every officer to wear it

  • Terry_smith_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Preach on! I couldn't agree more. I ALWAYS wear my belt!

  • Btjustice_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I agree seatbelt use is paramount. I was a counselor for a police academy september 2004 to April 2005, during that time frame approximately 125 officers were killed in the line of duty. Of those Officers killed, it was recognized during the academy session that, about roughly 85 % of the officers killed had been the result of a vehicle crash. This really should tell us something how we respond to emergencies, speed, weather conditions, seat belt use, etc .... Many of us need to take a stance on keeping all of US safe. might save someone's life. YOURS !

  • 100_0214_max600_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I always wear mine. You can't control the vehicle if you are not behind the wheel.

  • State_pd_03_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I'd think officers would think about this first, espcially since we cite people for no seat belt

  • Aa_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Officers need to be safe too....:)

  • Beware_max50


    over 5 years ago


    For those of you that are concerned you can't get your sidearms out........thanks to simmunitions my agency trains in firing from the vehicle while seatbelted.............with a little practice, like everything else we do, it is not difficult to fire with the seatbelt on. Statistics show officers are more likely to die or be seriously injured in a vehicle crash than all other reasons combined.

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50_max50


    over 5 years ago


    As I stated in a discussion forum

    Most officers who die in the line of duty do so behind the wheel of their cruiser. Of all the defensive tactics, firearms and driving training that we go through to survive on the streets, why would anyone not wear their seatbelt? If you make it a part of your regular "equipment" and wear it all of the time, it becomes 2nd nature. How many of you would dare go on the street without your vest or duty belt? How about your gun? HELL NO!!!!

    Earlier this year, I made a mention of a call that I responded to here on PL about a local corrections officer who had been killed in a car accident. He was ejected from his vehicle after sliding off of the road in a snow storm. I saw another officer dead.

    I'll make a promise to all LEO's that you will not have to respond to an accident where something as careless as not wearing my seatbelt was the cause of my demise. In return, please do the same for me.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    Patrolling a town where the spd limit is 25mph over 90% of the streets I choose not to wear mine for safety reasons. However, that being said, if I am driving code to a call I ALWAYS wear it as it is definitely another risk of life when driving. I ride my bicycle at speeds of 60mph+ down mountain roads, so I guess to some I'm a risk taker. :)

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    janus41... if your worried about not being able to pull your weapon from your holster while buckled in google."kingston carseat holster" . I use one and it takes care of that problem.

  • Shield_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Its a good article. However, theres is one key element of wearing a seatbelt. A seatbelt can save your life as well as be the end of your life. If i need to reach for my gun while in a unit, i dont want the seatbelt to interfere! Unless an officer is in trouble, I dont drive 80 miles through the city streets like a maniac for two reasons. One, I dont want to be mentioned in an article like this. Second, our units suck, LOL!

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