Sheriff’s Office to Make Patrol Cars More Visible

Reflective Markings Added to Improve Safety for Deputies

(Harford County, Md) — In an effort to improve safety and reduce the chances of a crash the Harford County Sheriff’s Office is adding a strip of highly reflective blue material inside the driver’s door and to the rear bumper of its marked patrol vehicles. Captain Steven Bodway, Commander for the Court Services Division, explained Sheriff’s deputies have been involved in several collisions where the driver of another vehicle failed to see the patrol car parked alongside the road and in time to avoid a crash. “Our emergency lights and flashers aren’t always enough and we need to make our patrol cars as visible to the average motorist for the longest distance,” Bodway said.

Captain Bodway, who chair’s the Sheriff’s Office Crash Review Board, said he reviews departmental crashes monthly and noted an increase in the amount of rear-end crashes, that occur while deputies are on patrol. During 2003-2004 rear-end crashes accounted for 10% of all crashes. In a recent crash, Bodway noted, a deputy sheriff was stopped on the shoulder of the roadway and a vehicle crashed into the deputy’s driver side door and ripped the door completely off. “The deputy escaped serious injury,” Bodway said, but it raised the attention of making police cruisers more readily visible.” Captain Bodway said his idea is modeled after the Pennsylvania State Police who after a lengthy study and review marked their cars with reflective striping. Richard O. Binker, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Transportation Division, said his department conducted several tests with various types of reflective material and different color combinations before settling on black and yellow for their cars. “Motorists are already familiar with the yellow-and-black stripe as it is used on existing hazards and they know through their driving experience to avoid these hazards, Binker said. “It made good sense to identify our cars with something already recognizable to motorists,” he said.

Working from the same concept, Bodway says, Sheriff’s cars will have a blue reflective stripe across the rear bumper and one installed on the driver’s door panel.

The blue and white stripe is consistent with the existing color pattern of the Sheriff’s cars, he said and the additional stripe on the driver’s side door becomes a visual alert to an approaching motorist that the deputy is preparing exit the police car.

Sheriff R. Thomas Golding endorsed the program saying clearly the goal of this project is to protect deputies as they perform their duties. “Deputies are exposed to a number of risks daily and traffic stops rank among the highest where there is a greater likelihood of injury occurring to the officer,” Golding said. “We certainly want to do whatever we can to alert approaching motorists to the location of the deputy while at the same time providing as much visual protection for that officer, Golding concluded.

Once implemented Bodway says he would be looking for a reduction in crashes involving agency vehicles although he admits it will be a difficult number to identify. “We really won’t know how many crashes will be avoided as a result of drivers who see our reflective striping and avoid the collision,” Bodway says, adding, “If a driver sees us in time and avoids a crash then we are protecting the deputy from injury and saving the County thousands of dollars in vehicle repair.” Bodway estimates the average cost to repair a police car after each crash is $2,000.

According to Captain Bodway, Sheriff’s cars are currently being outfitted with the striping and the estimated cost for striping 150 marked Sheriff’s Office police cars is $9,750.