It's no secret that driving while distracted greatly increases the risk of an accident. We know it from public service announcements, our own common sense, and the constant warnings of law enforcement officials.
But it turns out that police officers may not heed their own advice when it comes to distracted driving. A recent investigation of police crash reports found that distraction inside emergency vehicles contributed to at least 70 car accidents in the past two years. That's three crashes per month involving emergency responders who drove while distracted.
Some safety experts attribute this problem to the number of equipment officers have inside their vehicles. In addition to smartphones and two-way radios, police officers often use cameras and dashboard-mounted computers while driving. Often this equipment poses no problem - but it only takes a moment of distraction for a drive to take a deadly turn.
Inconsistent policies on in-vehicle distractions
While one might expect police officers to abide by the same distracted driving laws as civilians, there are a surprising number of different policies across departments in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The Tarrant County Sheriff's Department has one of the toughest. Any typing inside a moving police vehicle beyond pre-programmed, one-button responses is prohibited and officers who violate the policy are disciplined.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Arlington Police Department allows officers to text or type while driving without restriction. Strangely enough, Arlington is the only city in North Texas that bans texting and driving by other motorists.
Liability for these crashes may vary depending on the department's policy. Tarrant County's no-tolerance stance on distracted driving not only protects citizens from distracted officers, but it also protects the department from liability in the event of an accident. In jurisdictions without a clear policy outlining liability, departments might be liable for failing to prevent distracted driving by officers.
If you are injured in an accident with a distracted police officer or another motorist, a personal injury attorney can help you evaluate your legal options and seek compensation for any injuries.
Source: NBC5, "Distractions Lead to Frequent Police Crashes in Texas," Scott Friedman, July 31, 2012.