After the first on-duty death of a Howard County, Md., police officer in more than 40 years, police chief William McMahon will re-evaluate traffic-enforcement details that require officers to step into the roadway and flag down speeding motorists – a dangerous practice that some departments have abandoned, reports the Baltimore Sun. The technique, known as “stepping out,” is an efficient way to stop speeders. Maryland State Police have long used it.
Some departments have dropped the practice in favor of officers activating their cruisers’ lights and sirens and pulling up behind speeders, said Richard Ashton, an expert on highway safety at the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Pursuing cars results in fewer tickets during special-enforcement operations – when a team of officers, armed with a radar or laser and often on overtime, does nothing but enforce traffic laws. “As your speed increases, your reaction time is diminished,” said Andrew Scott, a former police chief in Boca Raton, Fl., who prohibited officers from stepping out into traffic lanes with speed limits of 45 MPH or more. The 24-year-old woman who hit the Maryland police officer never saw him. “You have drivers changing CDs, answering their phones, looking at maps,” Ashton said. “Sometimes they’re just distracted by good innocent things.”