31-year Pocatello Police Officer Reflects on Friday Driving

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Updated: 10/07/2013 9:32 am
Lieutenant Paul Manning started at the Pocatello Police Department 31 years ago. He tells his family to stay off the roads on Fridays between 1 PM and 6 PM because it is the most dangerous time of the week. The Lieutenant wrote his reflections on this phenomenon. His remarks are below.

"T.G.I.F. We all know what it means and we all look forward to it each week. Unfortunately, Friday is the worst possible day of the week to be out driving on the streets of Pocatello. The hours between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. are the worst hours of the day to be out on the roads. Pocatello has the highest number of traffic accidents with the highest number of injuries on Friday, between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., compared to any other day of the week. There are 72% more accidents on Friday compared to Sunday during the same time frame for obvious reasons.

Why is this happening? Well, what are we thinkin’? Are we concentrating on our driving or are we thinking about our plans for the weekend? Are following the vehicle ahead of us at a safe distance or are we thinking about something fun to do that night? Are we driving defensively or are we answering texts, emails and returning phone calls that we were not able to get to during our work/school hours? In my own personal observations on Friday afternoon, I see nearly one in three drivers engaged with their cell phone in some way, either talking or texting. I know there are far more motorists that are texting than what I observe, because we are getting better at keeping that phone out of sight with the new texting while driving law in effect. We will continue to enforce the texting while driving law at every opportunity we can.

The PPD recently received a comment on our Facebook page about an officer being observed talking on a cell phone while driving. We do not encourage driving while talking on a cell phone but we frequently have information to disseminate to the officers that cannot be given over the police radio. For other calls we expect them to pull over and make the call. We strictly enforce the texting while driving as it is the law and pertains to officers as well as citizens. Our officers have extensive training in operating a vehicle safely. They have to talk on the radio while driving, acknowledge a dispatched call on their mobile computer and occasionally give or receive sensitive information by cell phone while driving. Officers are rarely involved in accidents but when they are, the circumstances are thoroughly reviewed and appropriate action is taken.

Personally, I encourage my family to stay off of the streets during this time. The most defensive driver, paying full attention to the road, cannot always avoid the motorist who is looking down at their phone as the traffic light turns red or the vehicle in front of them stops for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. If you ever have the opportunity to listen and observe the number of calls that come into the dispatch center during this time, it is staggering. On a frequent basis, the dispatchers have all the patrol officers assigned to calls or accidents and all the fire apparatus on medical calls or fire calls including traffic accidents. At this point every call becomes a priority basis; the traffic accidents with injuries would take priority over traffic accidents without injury. All of this call volume includes the other calls for service that are not related to traffic accidents and the dispatchers do a fantastic job of assigning the calls as quickly as possible. That does not mean a citizen with a non-priority call will not have to wait until an officer is available. As soon as officers clear from a call, they are immediately sent to the next priority call. This month marks my 31st year with the Pocatello Police Department. Over 25 of those years I worked the street. It was common knowledge among officers that if you want a lunch break, take it before noon. If you want a dinner break, you might get it after 7:00 p.m., but not to count on it. Countless shifts the officers never do get meal break without comment or complaint.

If everyone would make a concerted effort to pay attention to their driving and not do their talking, texting, coffee drinking, makeup, day dreaming, wishful thinking and everything else that takes our attention from the road, while in control of a 4,000 lb automobile, the accident rate and seriousness of the injuries would reduce significantly. We have Halloween approaching and winter driving conditions in the near future. It is important now, just as much as any other time of year, that we prepare ourselves and our vehicles to be in the best possible condition to safely navigate the streets of Pocatello."

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