Officer Safety

The Road is Closed!


Michael Warren

June 9, 2022

June 9, 2022

For all of my non-law-enforcement friends out there if you are in need of a good laugh, I have a suggestion for you. Go and ask any law enforcement officer – I don’t care where they’re from, what agency they work for, how many years experience they have – they are going to have some incredibly funny the road is closed stories just ask him to tell you

There is a brotherhood and sisterhood in law enforcement when it comes to directing traffic. It is one of the most frustrating activities that one can undertake. People just don’t pay attention, listen, or they just don’t care.

But as funny as some of those stories are the sad truth is that “the road is closed” is an incredibly dangerous situation to operate within. For all the reasons listed above it makes this particular task one of the most dangerous that someone can undertake.

It is dangerous not only because of the actions of the drivers who are trying to get down the road that is closed, it’s also dangerous because of the physiological effects that it has on us.

We often forget that stress shows its face in many different ways. And stress, when it reaches certain levels, can have negative impacts on our performance. Many of you are familiar with these potential effects. They can include auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, or the loss of fine motor skills. All of these things are dangerous for law enforcement officers when they’re dealing with any situation.

But imagine the effect on an officer who becomes overly stressed while directing traffic where the road is closed, and all that officer can see is the individual car that they are dealing with. The one that is driving HUA (think about it you’ll figure it out).

When we become overly focused on anything in our environment it puts us at much greater risk from other aspects in that same environment. For example, when you’re dealing with that “one car” at the scene of a road closure that doesn’t mean that that’s the only car that’s out there. And it doesn’t mean that that’s the only car that is about to do something that might put you at increased danger. But when we allow stress to take over it’s the only car we see. It’s the only car we hear. And becoming overly focused like that, folks, makes us less safe.

So, I would encourage you to use some of the same strategies that you were taught while on the firearms range. When we are out there and talking about trying to bring down your stress levels so that you can fire a better shot, so that you can make better decisions, it is the use of scanning. Because scanning forces you to look for those additional threats. It helps to calm you because it reduces tunnel vision. You’re also encouraged do utilize combat breathing or tactical breathing, whatever it is you want to call it, but that intentional act of slowing your breathing down helps to bring the stress level down. And we need that – because the road may be closed, but the danger still exists.

I would encourage you, no, I beg you, to utilize the same strategies while directing traffic. We all know anecdotally that working in around our vehicles is incredibly dangerous. But we must take steps to mitigate that damage danger. Treat directing traffic is a potentially life-threatening situation. Wear your reflective gear. Utilize the strategies to control your stress level. Be intentional. Safety is not an accident.