We have posted previously about a legal case involving a Texas Police Officer causing a serious accident while using his in-car computer.
Now the NBC TV network has followed up on this and similar cases to highlight the on-going danger presented by in-vehicle computer use by law enforcement officials.
This video clip of the segment shows dramatic footage of the accident discussed in our earlier post – and on it the officer can clearly be heard stating that he was using his in-vehicle computer at the time of the crash.
A search of Texas state accident reports reveals at least 70 crashes in just 24 months where some kind of distraction inside an emergency vehicle contributed to the wreck — an average of almost three crashes per month. Those are just the crashes that involved enough property damage or injury that they had to be reported to the state.
Kevin Navarro, a top driving instructor at the Dallas Police Department and a leader of ALERT International, a national organization of police trainers, said officers have more to deal with inside their vehicles than ever before.
Officers sometimes forget the dangers because they’ve become so used to juggling radios, phones and computers that give important information and fast communication with dispatchers, he said.
“We get very complacent. We know it’s dangerous, but when we do it several times, over and over again, and it comes out positive, we think we’re good at it, and we’re really not.”
NBC 5 Investigates also uncovered video from a crash in February when a Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy ran a red light, injuring a woman in a sport utility vehicle while he was reading a message on his computer.
Tarrant County’s policy states:
“Other than one-button responses to indicate an employee is en route to, has arrived at, or is clearing a scene, typing messages on the MCT while the vehicle is being operated is prohibited”.
NBC 5 Investigates requested to review the policies of many of the largest police departments in the Metroplex. The search revealed many police departments do not have policies to prevent officer distracted driving.
For example, the Arlington Police Department still allows officers to text or type on computers while the car is moving, even though Arlington is the only North Texas city that prohibits citizens from texting and driving.
While driving through Arlington, NBC 5 Investigates saw officers typing and reading messages while the car was moving. One Arlington police officer could be seen on video rolling down busy Collins Street, his attention divided between the screen and the road.
As we have stated in previous posts, having no Policy is very bad, but even a written policy may not protect employers from legal action – the Policy HAS to be enforced.
Austin PD came to a financial settlement with the motorcycle rider featured in the video. but as we have reported before, employers are more and more likely to be the subject of litigation where distracted driving is involved.
Blank-IT has been designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction caused by in-vehicle computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help businesses conform with distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements.