AAA: 42 percent of officers killed in crashes weren't wearing seatbelts

Photo: Flickr/Good Gerster

The Prince George's County Police Department mourned the loss of 23-year-old Officer Adrian Morris on Tuesday, and AAA Mid-Atlantic says that his death underscores a deadly trend among police deaths nationwide.

Morris was reportedly not wearing his seatbelt on Aug. 20 when his cruiser crashed at the end of a chase on I-95 near Beltsville. He was ejected from the car when it ran off the road and was killed.

AAA officials say that the incident is part of a disturbing trend that indicates that 42 percent of law enforcement officers killed in car crashes over the past three decades were not wearing their seatbelts at the time. The study included data from 733 police-involved crashes nationwide, and includes 14 deaths in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia between 2005 and 2011.

"The great irony is police officers are charged with enforcing seat belt laws in every jurisdiction across the nation and the region, and they are also expected to be role models for citizens," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said.

These statistics have seen a recent and positive downturn, though. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there has been a 25 percent reduction in officers being killed in crashes from 2011 to 2012.

Virginia is one of ten states that exempts police officers from wearing seatbelts. Maryland and the District are not among them. The Maryland legislature has twice voted down legislation in the past two years that would have provided for that exemption.

FBI data indicates that 35 to 40 percent of all police chases end in crashes, much like the one that killed Morris did.

"Not only is it tragic for an officer to lose his life in this way, but sadly it sheds an unfortunate light on those who should be obeying the law the most," Townsend said.