The Wrong Way to Direct Traffic for Police Officers

Police officers put their lives on the line every day. From domestic disturbance calls to helping people get to safety during an act of terrorism, police officers are the first line of defense to protect and serve communities. But officers are also the first to call when a traffic light is out, and an intersection needs direction.

To help move traffic along, police officers undertake the task of directing cars. Unfortunately, this means they have to stand right in the middle of the intersection, between the bustling cars and left-hand turns, putting them in harm’s way. While traffic officers are generally safe during these times, there is still the potential for something to go wrong, resulting in minor to significant injury or even death.

Fortunately, police officers can take some essential steps to boost their safety and stay away from potential harm. Read below to get more information on the wrong (and right) ways to direct traffic.

Welcome Help and Be Visible

Officers need to ask for help when they are called to direct traffic. From emergency responders to community volunteers to other officers, cops must communicate and work in a team. Motorists might become confused with regular traffic disruption without getting consistent signals and instructions from authority heads. Officers at a crash site or an intersection with non-working lights should make sure everyone is on the same page to limit confusion and the potential for accidents to occur.

It’s also essential for officers standing in the middle of an intersection to be highly visible. While it might be easy to spot someone standing in the middle of traffic, visual aids can increase visibility. To do this, officers should wear bright orange safety vests and set down flares or cones to ensure they are doing what they can do to boost awareness among drivers.

It’s just as important to be clear with hand and flashlight directions and to use big motions. This might not be foolproof, but it can only help officers be more visible.

Don’t Count on Reaction Time

Driving is all about math. Drivers need to start braking at a certain point and a certain speed to limit an accident’s potential. Environmental factors and speed reduce a driver’s ability to observe their surroundings and interpret them correctly. Officers attempting to direct traffic must acknowledge that reaction time, and limited visibility for drivers can create limited room for error in avoiding accidents and further damage. Being visible in an environment is crucial in giving oncoming drivers as much advance notice as possible for better decision making behind the wheel.

Don’t Assume Drivers Will Make the Best Decisions

In an age of texting and swiping, drivers are more distracted than ever before. Plus, there’s always the potential for someone to be eating or drinking or under the influence of a substance that impairs their driving ability, so officers must be on the defensive side when directing traffic in the middle of an intersection.

For officers, the sights and sounds of flashing lights and sirens are normal. For drivers, most of whom are on autopilot during their commute (I.E., just trying to get home from work), any change is unsettling and will only slow their response time. Officers can’t assume that commuters will use the best sense, slow down, and notice them in the intersection.

About Provident Insurance Programs

With roots dating back to 1902, Provident Insurance Programs is a program administrator that serves paid and volunteer firefighters in addition to emergency medical responders with numerous custom-tailored insurance programs. We’ve also extended our expertise and experience to offer benefit plans and coverages to participant groups as well as Transportation Benefits. We are committed to continuing to provide superior customer service, and would be happy to speak with you to provide further information. Give us a call today at (855) 201-8880 to speak with one of our representatives.