Accidents involving police cars rival gunshot wounds as the leading killers of police officers around the country, says the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore officer Anthony Byrd was killed last month when the car he was driving was hit by one driven by another officer. The accident renewed concern about what has for years been a troublesome issue – the driving habits of officers. Seven of the past 11 city officers to die in the line of duty involved vehicle crashes. Nonfatal accidents involving police officers in the city occur at the rate of about 1.5 per day. Each year, there is one accident for nearly every one of the city’s more than 600 police cars on the road. “It’s so rare that a police officer gets involved in a shooting,” said criminolgoist Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina. “Most police officers never fire their weapons in the line of duty at all. They use their vehicles daily.”
In Baltimore, accidents involving police cars fell in 2005, and the number of crashes in which an officer is found at fault is falling. In 2002, 334 accidents were determined to be the fault of officers, according to statistics provided by the city. Last year, 269 accidents were deemed the officer’s fault. The concern isn’t only about dings and dents to the city’s fleet of 419 marked cruisers and 218 unmarked vehicles; there is a domino effect. Cars in need of repair can be a financial drain and an inconvenience if too many are off the road at a time. Injuries keep officers off the job. Overtime often must be paid for replacements. Serious accidents can be career-changing, leaving an active beat officer confined to a desk.