Hi Will –
I read with some interest the article in Globe regarding the deaths of several Police Officers on traffic enforcement duty (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/07/18/trooper_struck_during_stop). This illustrates the danger of exceptional conditions on the highway. As long as traffic moves smoothly and everyone follows the rules, things generally work out fine, but anyone who’s ever been stuck on 128 an hour due to a tire changer will appreciate that the flow of traffic in the Boston area is constantly approaching the point of saturation, increasing the possibility of dangerous situations. The new law, enacted to require drivers to slow when passing emergency vehicles reflects this reality by codifying something we should instinctively know by heart.
That being said, I was pleased to see that the police will be examining best practices from other jurisdictions in an effort to improve office safety. With that in mind, I’d like to make a simple proposal to improve safety: Follow existing best practice as documented by manufacturers of LASER guns.
In the past several weeks I have observed on at least three occasions, officers with patrol cars parked at an angle on the shoulder of major highways, such as Rt 2, with the nose of their cruisers protruding into the traffic lane!
They do so in order to aim their LASER gun. LASER, unlike RADAR, requires significant operator involvement and cannot be operated without direct line-of-sight. Clearly, this means it cannot be operated from the driver’s seat of a car without turning the car 90 degrees to traffic. In the instructions to most of these units, officers are cautioned to “stand behind their cars”, using them as defense against traffic dangers. To place the nose of their cruiser into traffic because they want to sit comfortably in the air-conditioned driver seat is simply not good Police work. However, as illustrated in the Globe article, even standing behind their cruiser is no guarantee of safety – standing by the side of a major highway is the last place you want to be.
So here’s my advice – ditch the LASER guns. They’re not safe for the troopers, and as any RADAR manufacture study will show you, the “production numbers” (number of tickets written per hour) are far inferior to RADAR units.
In addition, LASER guns are about double or triple the price of RADAR and have a shorter range so there’s really no reason for the State Police to even be using them. They waste our tax dollars and place officers in dangerous situations. My heart goes out to the family of the five officers who have died on the road in the past five weeks. Police Officers have enough dangers to contend with. There’s no need to increase their risk by making them do LASER patrol..
Sorry Will, I did not know who to address this to and you’re my “catch all” for governmental issues and irrelevant rants. Feel free to pass along as appropriate to the responsible authorities.