Fighting crimes vs traffic enforcement

Ask the Traffic School Instructor: Fighting Crimes vs Traffic Enforcement

Question: Is there any study on how many crimes are not solved or prevented because police are enforcing traffic laws instead?

Answer: I’ve had this question before in my traffic classes. The question that’s usually asked is more along the lines of “Why aren’t the police out solving crimes instead of going after good, honest folks like us?” There aren’t any studies that I know of to answer your specific question but we can do another type of comparison that may give you something to think about.

If we compare the FBI Uniform Crime Reports  to the data supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the results are revealing. This data is for the year 2012; the latest data available.

Murders – 14,827

Traffic Deaths – 33,561

4.7 murders per 100,000 people

10.69 traffic deaths per 100,000 people

On average, 40 people are murdered daily – one every 36 minutes.

On average, 92 people die in traffic crashes each day – one every 16 minutes.

892 children under the age of 16 were murdered

1,168 children under the age of 14 died in traffic crashes.

Aggravated Assaults – 760,739

Traffic Injuries – 2,362,000

Remember here that there’s no such thing as a traffic “accident.” Accidents are something we have no control over. Traffic crashes happen because one or more drivers made a bad choice and that choice set in motion a chain of events that led to a crash.

In an interview given by the sheriff in my county, he said (and I’m paraphrasing here): “There isn’t much, realistically, that I can do about the murder rate in the county. I can’t have an officer present at every drug deal that goes bad or when someone gets angry at a spouse and reaches for a gun. However, there is something I can do about the traffic death rate in the county and I plan to do that by vigorously enforcing the traffic laws.”

So, I’ll leave it for you to decide. What’s the greater crime? Which type of tragedy has the greater impact on victims and their families? Which type of crimes should police ignore in favor of the other?