Phoenix Law Enforcement Association

Seatbelts and Airbags, Where the Department is Going

Although being trapped in a patrol vehicle by a seatbelt during an ambush situation is a possibility, everyone knows the odds of being injured or killed in a collision on duty are a thousand times greater.  Additional reasons (not excuses) for not wearing a seatbelt are even less credible than the ambush scenario.  PLEA is concerned for the safety of each member and requests everyone wear their seat belts anytime their vehicle is in motion.

Police policy cannot, and does not, supersede state law.  The law states (even with lights and siren activated) a seatbelt must be worn.  To this end, the Driving Analysis Committee (DAC) is starting to find officers out of policy for not wearing their seatbelts even though the committee understands the cause and reason for the collision.  Although you may not receive a citation for the collision because you were actively performing an immediate police function, talk has been initiated to issue police personnel citations for not wearing their seatbelts! Investigators can determine if seatbelts were worn even without an air bag deployment.

It is important for officers to understand the airbag control module (ACM) makes a determination on how fast to deploy the air bag based on seatbelt usage.  Buckling the seatbelt behind one’s back can have an extremely damaging effect during a collision.  Additionally, wearing the seatbelt keeps the driver and other occupants in place so secondary impacts can be avoided.  Realizing this, there have been cases nationwide where workman’s compensation has denied claims citing that the officer was not wearing his/her seatbelt and thus contributed to the injury.  This is not a police department ruling but rather a workman’s compensation ruling.  Also, you should remember that if you are in a collision which was not your fault, the amount of civil restitution is significantly reduced if you were not wearing your seatbelt.