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Directions in Highway Safety Cover - Summer 2010 Download Newsletter pdf
[2.7 MB, 12 pgs.]

Summer 2010 | Vol. 12 | No. 4

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Deaths of Officers Killed in Motor Vehicle Crashes Analyzed

National Sherrifs' Association logo

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of law enforcement officers (LEOs) killed in the line of duty. In the May/June 2010 issue of its Sheriff magazine, the National Sheriffs’ Association published an article examining the changes in circumstances of overall LEO deaths and analyzing the conditions of the motor vehicle crashes in which LEOs were killed.

The FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) database showed that although the total number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty is decreasing, the number of deaths of LEOs by motor vehicle crashes has been increasing since the late 1990s. In fact, the number of deaths of LEOs in motor vehicle crashes has increased by 48 percent in the past 28 years.

Investigators also looked at NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), the only database that contains detailed information on fatal crashes involving LEOs, to determine if the data could help explain the increasing number of deaths of LEOs in motor vehicle crashes. A total of 308 crashes with fatal LEOs were examined by investigators who looked at a variety of data attributes such as time of the crash, restraint system used, travel speed, roadway conditions, etc.

The data showed that crashes with fatal LEOs were distributed generally evenly among days of the week. The ages of those killed were in proportion to the overall law enforcement officer demographics. Forty-two percent of all fatal crashes involved an object off the road, indicating that the police vehicle had run off the road in some manner. In 39 percent of the crashes, the LEO killed was not using a restraint. Twenty-four percent of those killed were ejected from the car.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) honors the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty—including as a result of motor vehicle crashes. In October, the NLEOMF will break ground on the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum, in Washington, D.C. The museum is scheduled to open in late 2013.

To access the Sheriff magazine article, visit (The article begins on page 22.) Learn more about the National Law Enforcement Museum at