Roadside Safety: 10 tips you can't hear often enough


A New York state trooper, inside his cruiser at an accident site, is slammed by an oncoming car. A Wisconsin officer is injured when his squad car is struck from behind during a traffic stop. An Ohio state trooper and a sheriff's deputy are struck by a car while investigating a crash at a suburban intersection.

News reports of officers being struck by passing vehicles during roadside activities (traffic stops, accident reconstruction, motorist assistance, etc.) seem never-ending.

Thankfully, these officers did not sustain life-threatening injuries, but the incidents serve as sobering reminders of the dangers of traffic stops. Roadside safety is a topic well-worth revisiting.

Here are 10 tips from trainer Wayne Corcoran, a retired sergeant with Phoenix (AZ) PD.


1. Set up flares even in daylight. People equate flares with an accident, so they’ll be on alert.

2. Give citizens a long distance of indication that something is going on. Large trailers/ trucks/motorhomes block the view of smaller vehicles, which will then dart out, full-speed, without realizing the situation just ahead.

3. What are you wearing? When directing traffic, always wear a traffic vest or a jacket with an illuminated stripe. Dark uniforms can render you nearly invisible, again, even in daylight.

4. When using a flashlight to direct traffic, put a cone on it – this way, light is diffused and becomes a red wand instead of an intense beam that can temporarily blind oncoming traffic – traffic that is driving directly towards you!

5. In icy or snowy weather when the terrain is apt to be slick, wear strap-on steel cleats for multidirectional traction.

6. If you’re dealing with a roadside incident under an overpass, stay completely under the structure, out of sight of vehicles passing overhead. Distracted rubberneckers have been known to veer over the edge, injuring or killing themselves, and people below.

7. The safest way to approach a vehicle during a traffic stop is from the passenger side. The nation’s highways are rife with drunk drivers, road rage, heavy trucks (with side mirrors that can kill if you’re standing on a narrow shoulder), cars going faster than ever, and a high density of vehicles. Play it safe: have the driver roll the passenger side window down, and conduct business from there.

8. Offset your vehicle in such a way that leaves a relatively safe walkway from your vehicle to the violator vehicle. The cruiser should either be slanted or parked further away from the curb from the vehicle that has been stopped.

9. On a motorist assist (if you’ve stopped to render aid to a broken down vehicle or two-car accident) give a good distance between your vehicle and the vehicles you’ve stopped for. If possible, have a back-up officer to do traffic control while you deal with the incident.

10. If possible, avoid making traffic stops past the crest of a hill or on curves.

Have a roadside safety tip to share? E-mail us at:

Special thanks to Sergeant Wayne Corcoran for his generosity of time and expertise.

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