Oh, those exciting days when a new NYPD recruit class was about to be sworn in. It was often my job to make a presentation about the Department’s Driver Training Unit. I remember driving with my partner to the Police Academy full of eager, enthusiastic recruits. We were there just to inform them what to expect; what gear to bring, what shoes to wear, what uniform is appropriate, and most importantly, not to forget to bring their (sometimes brand new) drivers license!
The academy, I remember it well. You were told where to sit, when to stand, when to go to the bathroom and who to salute (just about everyone, except the cat). Running around during meal breaks trying to find a bag big enough to carry all of the books and supplies that they were being handed out all at once.
Sometimes the recruit class was a small crowd of 300 and on other occasions, as large as 1500. After my presentation was complete, I would open up the auditorium with a question and answer session. Some very interesting and thoughtful questions would be asked and I would supply them with some hard facts. Specifically, driving will probably be the most dangerous part of their job. They didn’t believe me.
Recruits often looked forward to their stint at the Drivers Training Unit during their academy days. For them it was a very fun and exciting time, driving on an EVOC course, going fast, and learning evasive maneuvers. However, I would look out at them and wonder who were the ones that would be in trouble. Have a wreck, take a mirror off a parked car, run into a pedestrian, crash into a pole. Who would lose traction on a snowy day and slide into a parked car or slide off an exit ramp? Who would crash with another police vehicle responding to the same call? These are some scenarios that, unfortunately, maybe in store for them, on and off duty.
My partner and I decided to do some research (after all we were known as Research & Development … Not Starsky & Hutch or some other cool name) into how many off duty fatalities the NYPD had every year. Our inquiries revealed that we experienced a loss of an active member every other month. That was mind blowing to me. Six members of the service on average over a 5 year time frame were killed in an off duty vehicle incident. Every other month a squad, a unit, a precinct, a friend, a partner lost someone in a vehicle related fatality. What if the likes of ODMP and Below 100 were to include off duty incidents in their totals. What would the totals of lives lost be? Our research led to a plaque memorializing our fallen in driving related crashes. It still hangs in the hallways of the Driver Training Unit today.
What are YOUR statistics? How many department vehicle crashes? How many injured members of the service? How many lost man hours? How many line of duty deaths? How many off duty crashes and fatalities do you experience?
As instructors, let’s not forget to cover off duty driving and potential scenarios that officers encounter on the road away from the job. Remember to drive SAFELY all the time.