General Question

john65pennington's avatar

Why do police cars seem to attract auto accidents?

Asked by john65pennington (29235points) May 1st, 2011

During my police career, I have determined that I have driven a police vehicle 2.5 million miles. In those miles, I was involved in thirteen auto accidents. None were my fault. Two really serious auto accidents completely destroyed two of my police vehicles. I was not injured. Question: what is it about a police car that seems to attract other motorists into a collision with it?

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23 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Well, the propensity for the police to be involved in high-speed chases would seem to impact their relative number of accidents.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Probably the fact that everyone starts acting weird when the rozzers are around.

ragingloli's avatar

You strike fear into the hearts of people!

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It’s not the car.
It’s the uniform.;)

BarnacleBill's avatar

I think 13 accidents in 2.5 million miles may be in line with the average. I’ve driven about 350,000 miles in my life, and have been in 6 accidents. None of those were my fault either.

john65pennington's avatar

Ragingloli, I never thought that people were afraid of the police. That surely was not my intention.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I wonder if it has to do with car color. I had a gray car, and was in 3 accidents. I thought it was because the car was the color of a wet road at dusk. So I bought a white car, thinking it would be more visible. Not so. I was rear-ended on the expressway 3 months after I got the car. I was going 60, this guy was going 80. We were the only two cars on the road.

jrpowell's avatar


And if you think people aren’t afraid of cops you must live on another planet.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@john65pennington As a whole, the police are an inconsistent group when it comes to enforcement. Some officers will pull you over for going two miles per hour over the speed limit just to search your car (even though they can’t actually give you a ticket for it in most places), and others only pull you over if you’re being particularly stupid or dangerous. The reinforcement schedule is akin to gambling or terrorism, and people react accordingly. A police car in traffic is like a shark in the water: you don’t know if it’s just trying to get somewhere (always at speeds a normal person would get pulled over for, of course) or if it’s looking for prey. The psychological affect of this is a sort of obsession, and people often do even stupid (though often legal!) things for fear of being caught on some technicality.

Moreover, it only takes one bad experience to make someone distrust the police or to become nervous whenever they’re around. The very first time I was pulled over was for stopping at a stop sign—yes, you read that correctly—and the officer kept his gun out and resting on my window sill the entire time. When I argued with him, the gun turned a few degrees towards me. He told me that he would ruin my life if I tried taking the ticket he gave me to court (though I both fought and won because I was a headstrong teenager who didn’t take shit from anyone). Two months later, I saw in the newspaper that he had received some sort of award. This did not inspire confidence in the legal system.

WasCy's avatar

I can tell you one thing that must surely contribute: It pisses me off to no end at night when I see a police car on the opposite side of the road parked behind a vehicle that he has stopped, and with every bright and flashing light on the front end of his car… pointed right into my face, it seems. Compounded with the fact that the police car is parked to interfere with traffic coming from behind him (that is, sticking into the travel lane on his side of the road) which I completely support, in order to give the dismounted officer some degree of protection from passing motorists, means that people are going to be dodging around him, into my lane – and I can hardly see them because of the lights in my eyes.

SABOTEUR's avatar


Police do stupid things.

Like make left hand turns from the far right lane.

Traffic’s too slow for ‘em.

Or tailgate drivers. Makes me furious.

I pull over!

You either _pull me over or go the f#%^ around but you WILL…not… bumper for a quarter mile!

(Friggin’ idiots.)

Got much respect for ‘em though.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Damn question still has me angry. It’s inevitable I’ll get arrested. I’ve seen police officers make so many bone-headed moves in traffic I’m surprised we don’t have more police related accidents in Baltimore…and we have a lot!

Just last week I’m sitting at a red light. Traffic has stopped completely to allow the police through the intersection. Asshole makes a left turn through the intersection and almost hits my car! I jerked my body toward the passenger seat he came that close.

I don’t think a week goes by when I’m not visuably…yeah they see me…cussin’ them out.

Just a matter of time…I know it…!

HungryGuy's avatar

John, you’re a good guy and I don’t want to come across as attacking you, but to answer your question, people do fear the police.

My parents love the show “Cops” on Fox, and I have to leave the room when it comes on because it makes my blood boil at the way the police treat people (beat on the bad guys all you want, but everybody seems to deserve to be treated like a criminal in the eyes of a typical police officer). I have strong feelings about freedom and justice, and if peaceful behavior between consenting adults in private wasn’t illegal, there would be a lot less hatred of cops by the public. I know you say you’re just doing your job and you don’t write the laws, but I’m just answering your question.

In fact, I recall one time driving through New Jersey. Two cops were standing by a control box at a traffic light and made it turn yellow just before I entered the intersection. A moment later, a cruiser pulled me over and asked me if I know why I was stopped. I said I didn’t know (I tend to be a cautious driver [I really do stop for yellow lights if I can], and I know I was driving below the speed limit, so I really didn’t have any idea why I was stopped). He told me I went through a red light. I said it turned yellow as I went through it, and he said, “Tell it to the judge.” It’s that sort of lying and corruption right here in the USA in this day and age that makes a lot of people mad as h311 against the police.

Again, you’re a good guy and I don’t want to seem like I’m attacking you, but I’m just answering your question :-)

cheebdragon's avatar

If youre going to do something stupid, it might as well be really, really fucking stupid.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Some police depts (New Orleans being the most recent example) are nothing more than another gang.

john65pennington's avatar

2nd Answer…...........

First, in Tenneesse, there is a new “move over” law in effect. This means when you see an emergency vehicle stopped on the right side of the road, the driver either switches lanes, if possible, or slow down when passing the stopped emergency vehicle. This law was iniated after several police departments nationwide, began review officers injuries sustained on traffic stops. Also, officers use all the light power available on his police vehicle, to illuminate the stopped vehicle ahead. Darkness can hide a driver with a weapon. The lights are all about officer safety on traffic stops.

Hungry guy, no problem. I can tell you this(now that I am retired). The traffic signal control box can be manually operated to quickly change from green to red and eliminating the yellow caution. This may have happened to you. All officers are not alike. Some are power hungry. I was this for the first five years. I soon mellowed out.

Saboteur, I agree that police officers and their police cars do make irratical movement sometimes. Generally, this is for a valid reason. It may be an emergency call they have just received and its in the opposite direction or it may be an officer down asking for help. Many departments do not allow using blue lights without using the siren. So,many officers just try to make it through the traffic to their police call, without using either. The computer records every movement in a police vehicle with gps attached. Please try to understand that most officers are really there to protect the citizens. The next time you need help, who will you call? The police. And, they will attempt to get to your location as soon as possible, even if they have to do a little crazy driving to accomplish it. john

john65pennington's avatar

Lighly seared, New Orleans now has a new Police Chief. He was our Chief in Nashville for about five years. That department will be cleaned out from head to toe with this new chief. This he did in Nashville. You are probably going to see a shining police department in New Orleans. He has very high standards and did a good job for us.

WasCy's avatar

I fully understand the “purpose” of the lights. But headlights and bright flashers shining in opposite lanes do not aid the officer.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@john65pennington I respect what police do, I just don’t appreciate how arrogantly and irresponsibly they often exert their power. Police need to understand that the roads are populated with amateur drivers. It’s bad enough dealing with people who use turns signals as an “option”; having people irresponsibly performing erratic driving maneuvers around amateur drivers is an invitation for…

an accident.

And, that still doesn’t explain the incredibly stupid act of tail-gating.

I don’t do it…I don’t appreciate others who do it…and I especially don’t like it when police do it to me.

HungryGuy's avatar

Ohio has had a “move over” law for years. New York just got one (or they’ve had one and they’re just starting to put up signs for it on the interstates).

I’m so glad I rarely drive anywhere. I take the bus/subway to work, and take Amtrak or fly for longer distances (like when I visit my parents to watch “Cops” on Fox :-)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Based on what I’ve seen with my own eyes:

Police cars race up on the shoulders/on ramps of highways and swerve into traffic as they please. It makes me uneasy so I know others must feel the same. I can’t remember ever seeing a police car signal. You can watch the police car go past you, weaving in and out of traffic, riding up on people’s bumpers with no regard to if those people panic, put on their brakes, make lane changes (often with no signal) to get out of the police car’s way and then up frantically swerving back into their original lane when the police car aggressively makes the same lane change to go around because the car in front of them doesn’t dematerialize quick enough.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Maryland doesn’t have a “move over law”. So if a cop is 1ft behind your bumper and he doesn’t have his lights or a siren on, it’s tail-gating.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I agree with @WasCy . Sometimes the new Xenons are absolutely blinding. They do not help visibility at all. They blind motorists. Maybe they need to be aimed better or have a different power level. Sometimes they are sop bright I cannot see the road when I approach a car that has them flashing. I have to divert my eyes so I am not night blinded.

Is there a way you can energize ½ or ¼ instead of the whole bank? How about doing a study with some of the cars in the fleet?

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