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Law Enforcement Crashes Injured 52,000 In Five Years

Many lives have been shattered by police officer crashes in hamlets and cities across the IU.S. These crashes are part of a public safety crisis that is only now coming into sharper focus through deep reporting in the USA TODAY Network project called "Driving Force." USA TODAY's New York newsrooms partnered with Syracuse University and The Central Current to investigate for the first time a 10-year span of these crashes across New York. Data analysis from one sample city, Syracuse, shows that from 2013 to 2022, hundreds of collisions involving law enforcement vehicles exacted a heavy human and societal toll. Officers faced little or no discipline after many wrecks, some of which left victims permanently injured. According to their finding, police officers with track records of unsafe driving sometimes just stay behind the wheel, despite piling up crashes that devastate the lives of civilians. Police departments handle most investigations of their own officers’ crashes, raising conflict of interest concerns and questions about officers who faced no discipline.

In contrast, civilians must prove police acted with “reckless disregard” for safety to overcome broad legal immunity that shields emergency responders. The steep state legal standard helps police avoid crash lawsuits, win appeals or push to limit settlements. Thousands of police officers need more emergency response driving training — both in academies and on the job. Put simply, police lack accountability and victims face massive barriers to justice. The havoc wreaked by crashes was made all the more devastating as SUVs become the new standard for patrol vehicles. The resulting carnage: About 52,000 Americans were injured in crashes involving law enforcement vehicles in pursuit from 2017 to 2021, the most recent federal data show, while fatal police pursuits cost nearly 2,400 lives. Evidence-based solutions for reducing police crashes exist, such as a federally backed program that reduced Las Vegas police crashes by 14% and injuries by 31%. “Change is slow and just because you build it doesn’t mean they come,” said Hope Tiesman of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.Tiesman, who spearheaded a Las Vegas turnaround that included speed caps, mandatory post-academy driver training, new pursuit policies and other police education.


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