Washington, D.C. Police officers who can ticket you for not wearing a seat belt sometimes ditch their own restraints, a factor that may have contributed to a double-digit jump this year in law enforcement traffic fatalities, according to a new study.
Many patrol car seat belts tangle with gun belts worn by officers, causing some of them to choose access to a firearm over seat belt safety, said Craig W. Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The choice may explain the 16 percent increase in officer fatalities in traffic-related crashes this year over 2005, according to the report today by the Memorial Fund and the Concerns of Police Survivors.
According to preliminary statistics compiled through Monday, traffic fatalities claimed the lives of 73 of the 151 officers killed in 2006. This compares with 63 officers killed in traffic accidents in 2005, the groups said.
Of those 73 fatalities, 47 involved other vehicles, the report found. It's unclear how many of those officers killed were not wearing seat belts, Floyd said.