Last year, 32,788 people died in U.S. motor vehicle crashes. The way that family and friends are told about such deaths plays a crucial role in determining how soon they begin to recover from their loss, says a death notification expert and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which trains police officers on how to notify relatives of crash fatalities, says USA Today. “Nobody’s ready to hear the news of a sudden, violent, untimely death,” says Alan Stewart of the University of Georgia, who has studied death notifications for 14 years. “It makes it all the more important that the way a person is told the news itself doesn’t traumatize them.”
MADD President Jan Withers, who spent nearly a decade training police on death notifications, says, “When someone is delivering this information, if they’re kind of curt, if they’re not available, not giving complete information, doing it over the phone or if they give misinformation, all of these cause more trauma to the person who’s just received this information.” MADD has trained police officers in death notification since 1988. In 1995, the organization got a U.S. Justice Department grant to develop a standardized notification training program. The group trains 700-1,400 police officers a year.