I hit two milestones in 2017. First, I reached 40 years of driving (I started very young!) and second, I was hit while driving for the first time, resulting in significant repairs but luckily no injuries, and not my fault!
Forty years of driving with no accidents is pretty good. Insurance companies say that drivers between the age of 30-60 will be involved in 1.5 accidents in 30 years, or about one accident (at fault or not at fault) every 20 years.
Likewise, a car should go 20-25 years with only one hit.
At CIS, we find that most city and county drivers are excellent. In fact, vehicles insured at CIS average one accident in 25 years. Pretty darn good!
EXCEPT… marked police department and sheriffs’ office cars.
Accident and Claim Rates for Cities and Counties
Counties (deputies) have more accidents than cities (officers) but not by much. Both counties and cities wreck eight out of 10 police cars in a five-year period. Counties have a slight edge, wrecking 8.3 cars to cities’ 7.8 cars. The average city claim costs $11,960; the average county claim costs $26,460.
When both cities and counties are included, an auto claim occurs six out of seven days per week. This keeps Don Rocheleau, CIS’ auto claim adjuster, very busy.
As one would expect, those with the most police cars have the most accidents. While the average is damaging eight out of 10 police cars in five years, a few members are worse. In fact, six members have damaged 20 cars in five years, when they own only 10! That means in five years, they have two accidents for each police car they own. Not good.
The best driving record among members belongs to the city of Malin, especially its police department.
“When you hire good people you get good results,” said City Marshall Ron Broussard. “I sit down regularly with my officers and go through training. I also talk about consequences and following the rules of the road. Driving 80 just because you’re a police officer don’t cut it.”
Myrtle Point, Port Orford, Garibaldi, and Gaston also have excellent records over the last five years.
What’s the solution?
Backing is the number one cause of police car accidents.
“It may sound clichéd, but simply turning around and watching where you’re backing is the best way to avoid backing accidents,” said CIS Public Safety/Risk Management Officer Dave Nelson.
Other ways to reduce backing accidents include having a spotter, parking where you can pull forward rather than back up — and having a backup camera and backup sensor.
Myrtle Point Police Chief Rock Rakosi always backs in when parking so he’s ready to respond to a call at a moment’s notice.
“In the military, it’s called ‘combat ready’ and they teach it at the police academy,” said Rakosi. “It’s much easier to pull out than to back out — and certainly safer.”
Rear-ending another car is a very close number two, and far more expensive than backing. Nearly all rear-end accidents are due to distracted driving. CIS suggests following the recommended Lexipol policy for mobile data center use while driving and the car is in motion. The use of cell phones while the patrol vehicle is in motion should be discouraged, and all police vehicles should be equipped with hands-free systems. At least once a year, an officer forgets to place the vehicle into park before exiting and the car rolls forward, hitting the vehicle they’ve pulled over.
Lane change accidents are a distant number three. CIS suggests police cars come with lane change sensor lights and warnings sounds, part of the Lexipol policy cited above.
Running Code (driving with emergency lights and siren on) is a rare cause of accidents. Police should use care when entering intersections to make sure it is clear. Some police chiefs and sheriffs encourage or require officers to take skid-car training and emergency vehicle operators training at a minimum of every other year.
We encourage police administrators to review each auto accident and make it a learning opportunity for their departments.
Encouragement Makes a Difference
City Marshall Broussard is proud of Malin’s excellent safety record and he promotes a caring and active approach when managing officers.
“It’s important that they know that their welfare is your number one concern,” he said. “But it’s also important to be aware of what they’re doing, be there for them and praise them when they do well.”
He added that protecting, serving and safeguarding life and property can be attained one mile at a time by simply setting high expectations about officers’ professional and safe driving habits.
Contributed by: Scott Moss | CIS Property Casualty Trust Director