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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Wearing a High-Visibility Vest May Save Your Life

They may not be your cup of tea, but they work.

October 05, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author


5.11 Tactical offers its Breakaway High-Vis Vest for law officers working motorways.

Excercising caution while working on the motorway may be covered by your department's rules, regulations, and policies but there's still a need to remind you of it. We're still losing officers in the line of duty or hearing about the severe injuries of officers struck by vehicles.

I'm not talking about felonious assaults, but being struck by inattentive or impaired motorists. Will a fancy reflective, high-visibility vest stop a speeding locomotive? No! Will it give you a better chance of surviving an oncoming passenger vehicle? Yes, so wear it.

I've heard cops say they were not going to wear those fancy schmancy vests because they don't appear police-like. Or, that they'll look like a school crossing guard. I have heard this makes us look like British or other European cops. Yes, they've been wearing high visibility for years and (big hint here) they're living to tell about it.

Some say it's not tactically sound. You're not in a sniper position. You're working a traffic control point. Not all cop fashion is in basic black. We look like other emergency responders. That's the point; look like a responder rather than a highway victim.

Until 1999, there were no state or federally mandated safety standards or regulations for safety vests. Some departments had orange "hunting vests" and that was about it. Then the American National Standards Institute created a set of voluntary guidelines called the ANSI/ISEA 107-1999 that has since been adapted by federal and state authorities, as well as and private industry. Then came 2003, and the law was further refined. This categorized the different levels of vest and amount of high visibility fabric and reflective material.

We still didn't play by the rules or found ways to wiggle out of this. Until Nov. 24, 2008, when new federal legislation placed requirements on emergency responders working within the right-of-way of a federal-aid highway. There were some exceptions for law enforcement officers.

Officers are still required under 23 CFR 634 to wear high-visibility clothing when performing duties such as directing traffic, investigating crashes, and handling lane closures, obstructed roadways, and disasters within the right-of-way of a federal-aid highway. Most highways we work get a penny or so from the feds, so they're covered.

Enough vest history and law; here's the point. According to recent data on officers dying in the line of duty, we lose five to seven officers a year from "struck by vehicle." This needs to cease.

I know what it's like to have to get out and work a traffic accident; it only takes a few seconds to don this vest. There are still some officers who resist wearing the vest and try to trump up the circumstances to exempt themselves. You're only endangering yourself by doing this.

I don't care if it doesn't look cool. What's important is the safety it affords the wearer to come back another day. If you want to dress to impress, it helps to be in one piece and alive. Wear the darn vest!

Tags: Officer Safety, Traffic Enforcement, First Responders


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

mckimc @ 10/6/2010 1:48 PM

I look fantastic in mine...

Kathy @ 2/21/2011 3:38 PM

I completely agree -- reflective hi visibility vests are a must. The lights on the car don't hurt at all either. Occasionally though, especially in Seattle traffic, things happen in the blink of an eye in the midst of rush hour and it's difficult for drivers to distinguish what they need to avoid until they are right up on it. In the case of an accident, at times the first responding officer has a tough time containing the perimeter of the crash site and traffic continues to plow through it, especially if they are by themselves. Our local law enforcement has found the DisposaCone product a welcome tool in these situations as well as using them as crime scene markers and public event deliminators. Particularly useful for motorcycle cops. DisposaCone is recyclable, reflective, and florescent red-orange. It is fully designed for efficient storage and use with crime scene tape. I would encourage consumers, police, firefighters, etc. to carry them in their car in case of emergency at all times. DisposaCone has helped me avoid further incident in roadside emergencies particularly where there is very little shoulder to pull off too. You can find other officers reviews at: www.DisposaCone.com

I hope this helps.

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