Going back to the height of THE pandemic, polling by Gallup showed public confidence in key institutions was low. Even as the news media has pushed narratives focusing on other institutions, the public held the media in very low regard. Like trust in Congress low. There are many reasons to hold the media in low regard. A leading choice since 2020, THE pandemic excuse. That excuse was a favorite for the Associated Press (AP) and others in the media. While ridiculous, the beyond simplistic cover story was used to explain away huge problems caused by horrible public policies. Issues like a crushed economy. Well sure. But also rising violence and even reckless driving. But, this week National Public Radio (NPR) read from a new script. Rising traffic deaths just may have more to do with the consequences from lessened traffic enforcement by the police than Covid. Shocking. Well not really.
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Shocking News from NPR
NPR would not have been our bet for the media outlet to pitch THE pandemic excuse relative to rising traffic deaths. It may have taken a couple years, but in NPR’s 6 April 2023 article, they reported: “American roads are deadlier than they were before the pandemic and many are looking at changes in police traffic enforcement as a cause.” Alert the media! Newsflash. Even as the number of miles driven in 2020 dropped more than 13%, there were 38,680 traffic deaths that year, up 7.2% from 2019. The 2020 count was the most traffic deaths since 2007. That was until 2021 and 2022, as traffic deaths continued to increase.
The NPR article even quoted Jonathan Adkins, CEO of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, as observing that the dramatic rise in traffic deaths is not occurring in other Western countries. His explanation for rising U.S. traffic deaths, the “pullback in policing, following the George Floyd protests of 2020.” Adkins further explained the connection to how changing perceptions about policing have impacted traffic safety.
“Why do many of us drive dangerously on the roads? Because we think we can get away with it. And guess what — we probably can right now in many places in the country. There’s not enforcement out there, (referring to the nation’s police officers) they’re hesitant to write tickets. And we’re seeing the results of that.”
The Consequences of Bad Laws and Bad Policies
The truth is, in the absence of law enforcement, lawlessness increases. Even NPR noted that the issue of rising traffic deaths is not just because police officers are “hesitant to write tickets.” State laws and city ordinances in many jurisdictions have changed since 2020. Police policies in many jurisdictions have changed. Officers in much of the nation have been ordered not to engage in what was in the past routine traffic enforcement. Yet, police policies that reduce the capacity of the police to meet their public safety mission are inconsistent with the Police Policy Principles identified by our founder, Thomas Lemmer. We encourage a review of his key training insight on this topic.
Lemmer has also instructed, that lawless places are inevitably deadly places. When the consequences of dangerous, lawless actions are not resolved through the courts, there is not a lack of consequences. There will still be consequences. But, outside the legal process, they inevitably play out in the streets. What changes with a lack of offender accountability? Who suffers as the consequences play out. Such is true with violent crime, as well as basic traffic safety. As noted by City Journal author Charles Fain Lehman: “High-quality evidence finds that traffic enforcement saves lives.” In its absence, lives are needlessly lost.
Lehman noted in his February 2023 article that the withdrawal from active traffic enforcement has been the result of the politicized narrative about policing, as it relates to minority communities. Yet, the push to abandon proactive policing has been harmful to all communities, including minority communities. Quoting Lehman: “… over 40,000 people die every year in auto accidents, rates that have risen in the past three years; black drivers count disproportionately among those fatalities.”
A Reminder on the Challenge
As noted on this site’s main page: “Without question, America is in the midst of a public safety crisis. The way forward must be a proactive one. In this effort, it is essential for us not to be deceived by those who are seeking perpetual division for their own ideological and political purposes. When the police are one with the community, our neighborhoods are safer, freer, more stable, and better positioned to help foster the improved health and well-being of all the community’s members,“ Thomas Lemmer. Proactive, constitutional policing saves lives.
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