Campaign Urges Motorists to Drive Safely this Holiday
Last New Year's Eve, Corporal Courtney Brooks of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police was setting out cones along a busy interstate highway to keep commercial vehicles from entering downtown Baltimore during the New Year's celebration. Shortly before midnight, a sport utility vehicle struck and fatally injured the 13-year veteran officer. The female driver fled the scene but was arrested the next morning.
Corporal Brooks was one of seven officers killed in the line of duty on the nation's roadways last holiday season -- the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day when millions of Americans are driving and police officers nationwide are stepping up patrols. In all of 2007, a record 83 law enforcement officers died in traffic-related incidents in the United States.
To help prevent these tragedies and reduce officer injuries and deaths this holiday season, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) is reminding all motorists to do their part by following some common-sense traffic safety measures.
"Each year, thousands of law enforcement officers sacrifice time with their own families so the rest of us can travel safely and efficiently to spend the holidays with our loved ones. We owe these brave and heroic protectors our full attention and consideration whenever we get behind the wheel," said Craig W. Floyd, the Memorial Fund's chairman and CEO. "In addition to doing the obvious things -- not speeding or driving drunk -- all motorists need to be especially mindful of law enforcement officers who will be out in force on our roadways this month. If you see a police cruiser stopped by the side of the road, please slow down, move over and allow the officers to do their jobs safely and effectively," Floyd added.
The Memorial Fund's "Drive Safely" campaign outlines a number of steps motorists can take to protect law enforcement officers, other drivers and themselves:
• Focus on driving. Avoid talking on your cell phone, eating, or hunting for items in your vehicle while driving. When traveling 55 mph or faster, a two-second distraction can be deadly. Adjust your speed for road conditions, including snow and ice.
• Safely get out of the way of emergency vehicles. If an emergency vehicle has its lights or siren activated, slow down, move to the right and stop if possible. Once the vehicle passes, do not follow it too closely.
• Move over. When you see an emergency vehicle stopped by the side of the road, slow down and safely move over one lane if possible. Forty-three states have "move over" laws, and violators can be ticketed and fined.
• Stay off the shoulder. Driving on the shoulder of a roadway is not only illegal -- it's dangerous. Emergency vehicles use the shoulder to get to crashes faster, where a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
"The good news is that Americans seem to be heeding the call for increased attention and safety on our roadways," said Mr. Floyd. "Overall traffic fatalities in the U.S. are down 10 percent this year, and NLEOMF records show that traffic-related fatalities of officers are down 14 percent. Let's hope these positive trends continue this holiday season and throughout the new year," he added.
For information, safety tips and resources, visit the NLEOMF "Drive Safely" Web site at www.nleomf.org/DriveSafely.