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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 PoliceLink.com 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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  • Wings_max50

    copper5817

    over 4 years ago

    892 Comments

    As one who investigates collisions, I would give a quick reminder regarding the laws of physics...mass times velocity equals force. f=mv. Your weight times your speed basically equals the force placed upon you in a collision. There are mitigating circumstances, of course, but in general those numbers get really big really quick. Even a 10 mile per hour crash can mess you up with no seatbelt. If you don't believe me, try running into a wall. Doh! You can disperse that force across the large portion of your body with a seatbelt or you can pinpoint all that force to wherever your body hits the inside of the car...and airbags without seatbelts...don't even get me started...

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    To me it is very simple. If I am expected to enforce the law first and foremost I must abide by the law. It is my place as a police officer to set an example for others to follow. PERIOD.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    We need more article like these. Any out there listening. It saves lives!!!

  • Images_max50

    rougesvp

    over 4 years ago

    14 Comments

    As Police Officers we all stand in judgement of the driving of other people. How foolish can you be to think you, as an Officer, should be able to drive a vehicle without wearing a seatbelt? Wake up, you are of no assistance to anyone if you don't get to the call safely.

    Wear your seatbelt and stop dreaming up of excuses not too!

  • White_shirt_max50

    uncledennis1

    over 4 years ago

    23116 Comments

    C134. I agree with your statement.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    case well made. Thanks Dr. Weinblatt. Serve it up guys. It's a jungle out there and all the help we can get is much appreciated. ******

  • 013_max50

    C134

    over 4 years ago

    84 Comments

    Im a firm believer in seat belts, however there are two situations where I dont wear mine.... I take my seatbelf off when driving through high drug/crime neighborhoods and approx 30 seconds to a minute before conducting a vehicle stop, other than that youll see with mine on

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    dread27

    over 4 years ago

    1734 Comments

    This was a great article, both for le and regul;ar citizens.Everyone be safe out there!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    Star290,
    There is no "Macho" thing.... OK?
    Some Officers seem to find interference with equipment.... That's all... No "Macho" anything...

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    JOHNKIES

    over 4 years ago

    16 Comments

    Two mentions here - and I am not LE by the way - the first is you can ask any racing driving what is the most critical skill and the answer is vehicle control. Without a seat belt, you can have difficulty staying behind the controls so that you can take avoidence measures to avoid an accident. The same goes for your patrol partner - you can't control the vehicle if you partner is in your lap. Air bags are certainly helpful, but they are good for only one impact. If speed is involved, it is very possible for multiple impacts to occur. The airbag won't protect you from secondary impacts, like a freeway median wall.

    And a question - because LE vehicles are modified to the work at hand, would it be feasible to create a seat belt that can accomodate the service belt? Perhaps replacing the 3-point belt with a better lap belt? Not a safety engineer either, but it would seem a seat belt could be devised that would be both secure and non obstructive for equipment. ---JCK---

  • Kudro1-1_max50

    Roblewis

    over 4 years ago

    7802 Comments

    Great Article and be safe out there.

  • 131050241_max50

    leo52011

    over 4 years ago

    608 Comments

    Seatbelt saved mine and my wifes life during a single vehicle roll over. We made 3 complete rolls and landed upside down but walked away with only a few scratches due to the seat belts. I cant even drive without one one because it doesn't feel right.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 4 years ago

    saftey ! you give a inch it could take someones life, always do all that you can , cause you never know .
    Doc

  • Newpatch_sq90_max50

    JIMROC

    over 4 years ago

    8500 Comments

    Great article and how true it is.

  • Plmb2s3sk_max600_max50

    s3sk

    over 4 years ago

    3308 Comments

    You can buy the seatbelt extension so it doesn't get hooked on your gun its like 30 dollars.

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