Statement on National Police Week

  • May 10, 2019
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety


Contact: Pete Daniels 202-408-1711 (c) 301-442-2249

Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, On National Police Week

In acknowledgment of National Police Week (May 12-18, 2019), Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) honors law enforcement officers and extends our sincere gratitude for their service and sacrifice.  Every day, law enforcement officers confront a long list of deadly behaviors on our roadways such as distracted driving, impaired driving, and speeding.  They risk their lives to keep all road users safe by responding to crashes, managing crash scenes, aiding crash victims, and enforcing traffic safety laws, often on fast-moving highways where they are especially vulnerable.

Earlier this year, Central Falls, Rhode Island Police Chief James Mendonca, Ret. participated in the release of Advocates’ 2019 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws:

One of the most difficult parts of being a law enforcement officer is delivering the news that a loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle crash.  Passage of comprehensive laws enables officers to work toward curtailing these fatalities and making the roads safer for all.  Yet, please know, that police do not want to pull you over.  Not one of us does.  And in fact, when we do pull a driver over, we are putting ourselves at enhanced risk by being exposed on the shoulder of a road to other vehicles.  We greatly prefer compliance over enforcement, and deterrence over detention.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, between 2009 and 2018, more than 400 officers were killed in automobile and motorcycle crashes, and 122 died after being struck by a vehicle.  Advocates supports comprehensive “move over laws” to protect the safety of law enforcement officers, first responders and other road users.  These laws require motorists to change lanes or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle that is stopped and displaying flashing lights.

At a reception marking our 30th anniversary on April 9, 2019, Advocates awarded Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Ret. a “Highway Safety Hero” award for his crucial role in the decade-long effort to pass an all-offender ignition interlock device (IID) law in Maryland.  The law, passed in 2016, is named after Officer Noah Leotta, who was tragically killed by a drunk driver while on duty in 2015.  To date, 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed all-offender IID laws.  These critical laws help curb alcohol-impaired driving which continues to cause nearly a third of all traffic deaths in the U.S. and is one of the most serious problems confronting police officers on our roads.  In fact, one alcohol-impaired driving fatality occurred every 50 minutes on average in 2017.  Despite this ongoing tragedy, states are still lacking countermeasures such as lifesaving IID laws, lowering the limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) while driving to .05 percent, child endangerment laws and prohibitions on open containers of alcohol within the passenger compartment.  Moreover, proven safety technologies such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning and blind spot detection, which are currently available in high-end cars or included in luxury packages, would protect law enforcement officers working on our roadways and should be standard equipment in all new cars.

Additionally, law enforcement officers are increasingly dealing with the challenge of drug-impaired driving (legal, prescription and illegal drugs), and poly-use of multiple drugs or drugs and alcohol.  More research and data are needed to better understand this problem and target solutions.  We encourage states to advance zero-tolerance marijuana laws for youth and explicitly prohibit marijuana use while driving.  Advocates also urges increased funding for enforcement efforts, training and toxicology programs, and improved data collection and analysis.

As National Police Week begins on Sunday, May 12, Advocates calls upon elected officials to take immediate action to close the gaps in state highway safety laws to provide law enforcement officers with proven tools to enforce and enhance safety for all road users.  We thank all law enforcement officers and their families, and we look forward to continuing to work together to reduce the unacceptable motor vehicle death and injury toll.