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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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  • 21r13_max50


    about 5 years ago


    As a young firefighter, I recall a veteran explaining to me as I raced to a call, "Its not our emergency. Getting there safe is more important than getting there."
    Later, as a an emergency vehicle operator instructor I would relate that story to my students. And it all starts befor you start the engine: Seat Belts.

  • Aaa_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I have always been a seat belt user, but never realized how critical that use could be until my wife had an experience with some Michigan black ice, cut down a telephone pole with a Camaro. She suffered a severely crushed wrist that had to be pinned back together, numerous horrible looking bruises but was o.k. after the surgeon finished repairs. The thing that remains with me forever is a conversation with an old friend that was the responding officer for her accident. He is an accident reconstruction specialist. After examining the Camaro, he looked me in the eye and said "there are two reasons why your wife survived the impact that destroyed the car #1 she laid down across the console when she saw the telephone pole coming at her door and she was wearing her seat belts".

  • Dad_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Anyone can and many of us do readily decry the stupidity and sadness of any number of traffic fatalities out there, and accoording to Seat Belt Safety Statistsics, roughly 63% of the people killed in these very same accidents annually were/are not wearing their safety belts. Granted a large number of these were drunk last year, and some young or inexperienced. That does not excuse the obvious data that seatbelts save lives. (also,these numbers do not include any of the severely injured who did not die soon following the accident, but lived on -at least for a while- in various states of disability.) Additionally, basic physics tells us that an object in a state of motion tends to stay in that state until it is acted upon by an outside force. Hence anything not "tied down" (ie. you or your partner) can become a projectile inside an object when the velocity of said object suddenly changes.
    Regarding the gear, I have a thought. Though I am no expert, this stems from many hours of riding in a hmmwv (military hummer) with all manner of gear including but NLT Stowed NBC Protective mask, 4cell mag light, flak vest, kevlar, Load Bearing vest and pistol belt with beretta, 30rds extra ammo, first aid pack, flex cuffs, water canteen, 2 radios, an M16 (with 60rds extra ammo), combat knife, and a pen. After much practice my section of two 4 man teams could roll from 45 - 55mph to a sudden stop, dismount, and take up defensive positions within a matter of a few seconds. --And we always wore our seatbelts. Always. It takes practice and training and a little forethought with attention to detail, but snags like any routine challenge on the job can be overcome. Severe injury, paralysis or death due to abrupt impact with the inside of a vehicle on the other hand? Well, that would appear slightly more challenging to get accustomed to. Please protect yourselves out there.

  • All_types_of_fun_146_max50


    about 5 years ago


    i have to agree every time me and my family get in the car my girls always remind me click it or ticket. As for being an officer we issue seatbelt tickets so we too need to inforce it in our dutties to help set the example.

  • Geiger_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Look at seatbelt extenders if you haven't ever seen them before.. Google image "police seatbelt extenders"

  • New-deputy-4c_story_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I have to agree with the article as well, I always wear my seat belt as that is how I was raised. About a year and a half agoe that little habit saved my life. As I was patroling a forest service road in northern arizona my attention wandered from the road for a split second. When i looked back up I was headed for the side of a cliff. I managed to turn in time to avoid driving straight off the cliff however I ended up skidding sideways off of it. I was not traveling very fast only about 35 MPH which was the speed limit. My vehicle fell off the cliff sideways and fell for about 10 feet before impacting with a rock. I then rolled approx. two and one quarter time before coming to a stop on my drivers door. After viewing the damage to the vehicle the I had no doubt in my mind that if I had not been wearing a seat belt I would not be here today. As it was I olny had a few minor lacerations and was back at work in a new vehiclethe next day.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    C134 makes good sense.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    I have to agree with the article. In 1983 during the CHP academy driving course I was not wearing my seatbelt during simple serpentine exercises. All of a sudden I slid all the way across the bench seat and ran off the road into the pucker brush. On the light side my instructor saw it and I heard about it for the rest of the academy. On the seriousl side the unexpected weight shift and the force that threw me across the car taught me a lesson I never forgot.

  • American_first_responder2_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Dr. Richard Weinblatt wrote a excellent article here, and one that everyone can learn from. For ourselves, our families, our agency and the fact that we enforce these laws on people that fail to comply, and we act as if we are supposed to be Above the Law because we are the enforcers of the Law. It doesn't work that way and we know it. Need more articles such as the ones like this that Dr. Weinblatt post on Police Link.

  • Cars_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I agree with C134. I also take mine off when I am close to checking out on a call.

  • Windows_photo_gallery_wallpaper_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Great article.. Seatbelts are like body armor you should never work with out them. Thanks for the great article. Need more of these tyoe of articles.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    I don't wear my belt when I'm off the main roads and traveling under 30. It prevents me from being able to hop out of the car quicky during emergencies and gets hung up on my duty belt.

    Also agree with C134

  • Native_clip_art_4_049_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Safety all time.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago


  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    Thats really sad =( i always wear mine! I remember when a sheriff asked me a stupid question after my car accident lost control over my car in the winter ran over a mailbox right into a tree asked me if i was wearing my seat belt i think if i wasn't i would of flew out of the car how hard the impact was..the car door locks locked after hitting the tree i thought i was going to die wearing my seat belt!

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