The number of law enforcement officers killed in crashes increased by about 80 percent between 1980 and 2007, making this the leading cause of death for officers on the job. This is a main finding of a recent review by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that examined FBI data on officer deaths for these years. Traffic fatalities climbed even as the total number of deaths in the line of duty fell about 20 percent. Among the general population, the rate of traffic fatalities per population has been falling since 2000, but the fatality rate among officers has risen dramatically.
Crashes accounted for just 26 percent of all law enforcement deaths in 1980-82. By 2005-07, the share had increased to 54 percent. The numbers include officers involved in crashes as pedestrians or motorcyclists, as well as those who were vehicle occupants. The number of deaths in the first 2 categories held steady, while deaths in vehicles shot up. The agency also looked at data from its own Fatality Analysis Reporting System for clues about crash circumstances. A finding is that 39 percent of officers killed in crashes since 1996 weren't using safety belts.