Police escorts and traffic

Our view: It's time to review policies on police escorts to ensure traffic flow

October 21, 2008

Funeral processions for law enforcement officers are an outpouring of respect, but can be a traffic nightmare for other drivers. And while the state police do their best to alert motorists with highway message boards and the like, there should be some other way to ensure both a respectful escort for an officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty and safe and speedy passage for highway travelers.

Part of the problem, as evidenced by recent complaints to Baltimore Sun columnist Michael Dresser, is that police escorts aren't limited to funerals of law enforcement officers. Participants in other ceremonial and memorial events are afforded escorts on major highways that can disrupt traffic and frustrate motorists who are trying to reach their destinations in a safe and law-abiding manner.

One recent Saturday morning, for example, an Anne Arundel County police cruiser was providing an escort for vehicles traveling on Interstate 97 to an annual firefighters memorial event. The officer drove in the middle lane at 40 miles per hour, forcing the backup of dozens of cars in all three lanes until the procession exited the interstate. Couldn't it have been restricted to one or two lanes of traffic?

Escorts should be reserved for events that are so large that their scale is expected to disrupt traffic in significant ways. Law enforcement agencies and the State Highway Administration should review policies and procedures to establish uniform responses to such requests to ensure a safe, orderly procession and reasonable traffic flow.

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