Police officers often do not wear seat belts, a factor that may have contributed to a double-digit jump this year in law enforcement traffic fatalities, reports the Associated Press. Many patrol car seat belts tangle with gun belts worn by officers, causing some to choose access to a firearm over seat belt safety, said Craig Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The choice may help explain a 16 percent increase in officer fatalities in traffic-related crashes this year over 2005, says the Memorial Fund and the Concerns of Police Survivors.
Through Monday, traffic fatalities claimed the lives of 73 of the 151 officers killed in 2006. This compares to 63 killed in traffic accidents in 2005. Inappropriate safety equipment and a lack of defensive driver training contributed to the jump in traffic fatalities, Floyd said. There are more patrol officers on the roads now than ever–900,000 compared with 693,127 in 1997. Officers shot to death in 2006 declined 9 percent, from 59 last year to 54.