At least 42 percent of police officers killed in vehicle crashes over the past three decades were not wearing seat belts or other safety restraints, says a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study quoted by USA Today. Another report found that fatal traffic incidents were the leading cause of officer deaths last year for the 13th straight year.
“This points to a real problem,” says Craig Floyd of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks officer deaths. Some officers resist wearing seat belts because the restraints slow their movement in and out of the cars, Floyd says. Others complain that the straps get tangled in utility and gun belts. Of officers killed in vehicle crashes, 28 percent used some kind of restraint in the 1980s, said the federal report. Usage increased to 56 percent in the 1990s but has declined to about 50 percent.