Law Enforcement and High Visibility PPE
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Studies1 have clearly demonstrated that high visibility personal protective equipment (PPE) significantly improves the visibility of emergency responders working on the roadways. Law enforcement operations on the road are inherently hazardous situations — operating on the roadway is one of the most dangerous law enforcement duties.2 However, anecdotal evidence, visual observation, and scientific studies have shown that many law enforcement officers do not consistently, or ever, wear a high visibility traffic safety vest or other apparel. Objections to wearing the vest include poor fit, interference with utility belt and weapon access, doubts about effectiveness, and concern about becoming a more visible target for violent criminals.
This program summarizes the federal regulations with regard to high visibility safety apparel, examines the objections of law enforcement officers to wearing this apparel, presents facts that address these objections, and details a set of solutions to address officers' objections and improve compliance with federal regulations, state regulations, and local policies.
1Brackett, R.Q., and M.A. Stuart High Visibility Garments of Use in Work Zones, TTI. 1982.; Sayer, J.R. and Mefford, M.L High-Visibility Safety Apparel and the Nighttime Conspicuity of Pedestrians in Work Zones. UMTRI. 2003.; Valentin, Vanessa et al. Evaluation of the Visibility of Workers' Safety Garments During Nighttime Highway Maintenance Operations. Journal of Transportation Engineering. June 2010.; Finley, Melissa Dale et al. Impact of Work Zone Lighting on Driver's Detection of Objects. TRB 93rd Annual Meeting Compendium of Papers. 2014.; plan to search the archives of the Transportation Research Board (http://amonline.trb.org/)
2Statistics for 2013 from National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: Auto Crash (28), Struck by Vehicle (11), Motorcycle Crash (4). Cumulative 2004-2013, Top 4 causes of LE fatalities in the line of duty in order of # officers killed: Shot (548), Auto Crash (434), Job-Related Illness (186), Struck By Vehicle (136). "Operating on the roadway" encompasses crashes and struck bys.