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Maintain Composure, Keep Perspective, and Use a High Visual Horizon

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June 5, 2015

Each year vehicle collisions are responsible for more law enforcement deaths than gunfire.  According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 2015 is no exception.  While not all fatal collisions can be avoided, learning to maintain composure, keep perspective, and utilize a high visual horizon while driving could reduce the number of law enforcement collisions and their lethality.

A 28-year study (pdf) of law enforcement officer fatal collisions concluded:

  • “37% of the involved cars and 29% of the involved motor units made no attempt to avoid the accident”

How is that possible?

The answer may be in the top three driver-related factors:

  1. Failure to keep in primary lane or running off the road
  2. Driving too fast for conditions
  3. High-speed chase

When a law enforcement driver responds to an emergency call or gets into a vehicle pursuit, it can trigger the “fight or flight” reaction. The officer’s physiological response to “fight or flight” may include tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, the loss of fine and complex motor skills, and the inability to think clearly.  A resulting loss of a high visual horizon and speeds too fast for conditions would prevent the officer from identifying hazards as they got closer, allowing little or no time to react to the danger before it is too late.

When law enforcement drivers maintain composure, keep perspective, and utilize a high visual horizon during stressful driving events, they minimize the effects of “fight or flight” reactions and provide a steady and consistent approach to driving under all conditions. Training for this approach starts at the academy, and should be regularly updated throughout an officer’s career.

Honor officers killed in 2015, review the NHTSA Study (pdf), and consider updating driving skills to avoid becoming a statistic.

Wear your seatbelt, watch your speed, and practice SAFE driving!

The SAFE Driving Campaign is a POST initiative focused on reducing fatal and serious injury law enforcement traffic collisions nationwide.  For further information regarding the SAFE Driving Campaign, visit the SAFE Driving Campaign on the POST Website or contact:

Janna Munk, POST Senior Consultant
Training Program Services Bureau
(916) 227-0473

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