Managing Distracted Driving in Law Enforcement (Part 2): Policies, Procedures and Programs

Scott Durbin
Transportaion Specialist, Travelers/Northland Insurance
background image

Click HERE to read Part 1

What are some best practices in preparing fleet safety policies and procedures?

A best practice in preparing fleet safety policies and procedures is to consider what steps will be needed to best motivate changes in officer’s driving behavior to better manage distractions arising out of their duties.

Many behaviors officers engages in are predictable and many are by choice.  For example, if you were making a left-hand turn and all of a sudden you noticed your flashlight moving on the passenger seat…what would you do?  What would most people do?  Reach for it by taking your hand of the steering wheel and eyes off the roadway?  There are many influences in our lives that lead to decisions we make while driving.  From a management perspective the need to establish a standard for safety for prevention of distracted driving is a must.

So how do leaders establish a standard for safety? As a supervisor, you are in the best position to set the standard for safety.  As you look at the issue, note that some situations may involve more than ONE of the three types of distractions: Visual, Manual, and Cognitive

Here are a few recommendations to help preparing a meaningful fleet safety and procedures policy.  Adopt and enforce a policy for the use of seatbelts in department vehicles by all law enforcement agencies.  Creation of a training/educational video or in-service training.  Examine and evaluate the number of hours and the types of driver training and in‐service programs needed to reduce officer‐involved fatal or serious injury crashes.  Conduct research on speed by law enforcement officers as a factor in fatal crashes; equipment and technologies in patrol vehicles as a distraction; equipment configuration in patrol vehicles as factors that increase the risk of serious injury or death in crashes; and fatigue as a factor in officer involved crashes.

Prohibit use of handheld communications and portable electronic devices not necessary to the performance of their official duties while a vehicle is in motion, establishing approved work methods (best practices) for in-vehicle officer-equipment interaction and communication operations

A policy alone, will not likely solve the problem.  It is, nevertheless, a necessary and needed step in the prevention of distracted driving.

Any policy adopted should include the overarching goal of minimizing distractions and helping officers to maintain both hands on the steering wheel while the vehicle is in motion.  It should also cover both agency and personally owned wireless voice/data communication devices either in agency owned vehicles or in privately owned vehicles when officers are on duty or conducting official business.

Remember that established fleet safety policies and procedures that define driver expectations need to be clearly communicated, together with the consequences for non-compliance.  Adopt and enforce policies to prohibit use of handheld communications and portable electronic devices not necessary to performance of official duties while a vehicle in in motion

Lastly, comply with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding the use of mobile technology devices including cellular phones.  Use of hand-held cellular phones and other personal consumer devices while driving is prohibited except during exigent circumstances.  Cellular phone calls using hands-free technology while driving, if any, are kept brief.  Extended conversations should only be made while not driving.  Sending text messages or e-mails, dialing cellular phones, viewing television, videos or DVDs and inputting data into laptop computers, personal digital assistants or navigation systems is restricted and limited situations only.  Radio traffic generated by the vehicle operator while the vehicle is in motion is limited to operational traffic and is kept brief.

What should you look for in your training program dealing with distracted driving?

You should examine and evaluate your driver training and in-service programs to ensure that distracted driving policies are incorporated into roll call and in-service training and emergency vehicle operations courses.  Field training officers process should also focus on driving and driver distraction prevention.  Supervisors should also be involved with this behavioral coaching.

Driver skills training, including instruction on distracted driving, should be provided to entry‐level officers and annual in‐service training.  The  training should be based not just on the mechanics of defensive and/or pursuit driving, but also on decision making in conjunction with driving operations and the adoption of policies and procedures to deal with distracted driving.  Supervisors should also engage officers in distraction avoidance through observations and coaching, giving reinforcing feedback for safe behaviors, and constructive redirecting feedback for at risk behaviors.  Your Field Training Officer process should include a focus on distraction prevention.

Law enforcement departments should examine and evaluate the number of hours and the types of driver training and in-service programs needed to help reduce officer-involved vehicular accidents.  This should include specialized training on prevention of distracted driving. Part of training planning is the determination of how supervisors will follow-up and coach officers to reinforce proper behaviors learned in the training and redirect at-risk behaviors when observed.  Field Training Officers processes should include progressive in-vehicle orientation training for officer on distraction prevention and use of mobile data, communication and other in-vehicle equipment.

*The views and opinions expressed in the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) blogs are those of each respective author. The views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRIMA.*

By: Scott Durbin
Transportaion Specialist, Travelers/Northland Insurance

Scott has been head of fleet risk control for Travelers/Northland Insurance since 2015. Prior to that, he was an Indiana State Trooper for 30 years. Scott also spent 15 years in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Division. In his current role, Scott assists customers with fleet risk control to mitigate their risk.

Sign Up for Our Education Newsletter

You Might Also Be Interested In