A firefighter or police officer can control his or her fitness, attitude, and attention to the practices he or she has learned. A department can control the training, equipment, policy guidance, and supervision provided. But no one can control the homicidal intentions of another, or the sheer brutality of Mother Nature.
Here, however, is something especially important that we can each control: our own safe driving. While the leading cause of the 82 firefighter deaths in the United States last year was overexertion and stress, the second leading cause was traffic crashes. Of the 120 police officers killed in the line of duty during 2012, the leading cause of death was gunfire, but the second leading cause was vehicular collisions. All told, 19 firefighters were killed in traffic collisions last year, and 43 police officers. Every day, I walk by the photos of Lincoln police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty, and most of those fatalities were traffic crashes.
Wear your seat belt religiously. Slow down. Fast driving does not get you to the scene much faster at all, and dramatically increases risk. Avoid the temptation to tap the MDC keyboard or pick up the cell phone while driving; the radio microphone is distracting enough, and the call or query can wait for a stopping place. Take a deep breath when you drive code 3, and practice maintaining a calm focus on the task at hand--getting there safely. When code driving, always come to a complete stop at red traffic signals, and thoroughly check all lanes--twice--before proceeding. Use your siren continuously on all emergency runs, and do not turn it off until and unless it is absolutely necessary. Wear your high-visibility gear whenever working in or adjacent to the roadway.
These are things we can control personally and individually. They do not require additional expenditures, they do not depend on others, and they are things we have all been trained to do. They simply require self-discipline.
Have a safe Independence Day.
|Source: U.S. Fire Administration|
Police Officer Line of Duty Fatalities, 2012
|Source: Officer Down Memorial Page|