Motor-vehicle-related events (MVEs) are the leading cause of on-duty death for law enforcement officers, yet little is known about how officers view this significant job hazard. The purpose of this paper is to explore officers’ motor-vehicle risk perception and examine how prior on-duty MVEs and the death or injury of a fellow officer influences this perception.
A state-wide random sample of 136 law enforcement agencies was drawn using publically accessible databases, stratified on type and size of agency. In total, 60 agencies agreed to participate and a cross-sectional questionnaire was distributed to 1,466 officers. Using six-point Likert scales, composite scores for motor-vehicle and intentional violence risk perception were derived. A linear regression multivariable model was used to examine factors affecting motor-vehicle risk perception.
Motor-vehicle risk perception scores were significantly higher than intentional violence scores. A prior on-duty motor-vehicle crash, prior roadside incident, or knowledge of fellow officer’s injury or death from a MVE significantly increased motor-vehicle risk perception scores. After controlling for potential confounders though, only prior on-duty crashes and roadside incidents impacted motor-vehicle risk perception.
The study comprised primarily small, rural agencies and generalizability may be limited. Also, although the data were collected anonymously, reporting and response biases may affect these findings.
This study involved a large and diverse cohort of officers and explored motor-vehicle risk perception. A better understanding of officers’ risk perceptions will assist in the development and implementation of occupational injury prevention programs, training, and policy.
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