Police officers are called to manage traffic conditions during a variety of situations, sometimes dangerous for both police officers and drivers. In a document entitled "Techniques of Traffic Enforcement," the city of Burlington, North Carolina provides examples of the types of situations requiring police traffic direction and control.
Police may be called to direct and control traffic during public safety emergencies, including traffic accidents, fires or police emergencies, according to the article. Police may also direct and control traffic in major intersections during periods of high-volume traffic, such as rush hour. Finally, police may direct and control traffic to make the roads safe for street or highway repair or construction.
These situations require a variety of techniques for police traffic direction and control.
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When directing and controlling traffic, police should be equipped with appropriate traffic-directing gear. Equipment includes a reflective traffic vest and gloves, whistle, flashlight and directing wand, according to "Techniques of Traffic Enforcement."
Depending on the situation, traffic volume, road type and level of risk for participating police officers, one technique for police traffic direction and control includes selecting an appropriate position. Positions are chosen for the highest level of visibility for both car drivers and pedestrians, according to "Techniques of Traffic Enforcement."
Police officers may choose the technique of standing in the intersection's centre, which offers the greatest visibility and control but is considered the most dangerous. Standing on the corner is ideal for directing pedestrian traffic and offers police offers greater safety.
Police officers may use the technique of hand signals to provide traffic direction and control. Officers should stand parallel with traffic so that stopped traffic faces the front and back of the officer's body, according to Security Eye Patrol Inc., a private security company utilising police techniques to train guards, detailed in an article titled "Traffic Control."
To stop all traffic, the police officer uses the techniques of lifting an upraised palm in the direction of traffic intended to stop, making eye contact with the first driver who must stop. Keeping the palm uplifted, the police officer then lifts an upraised palm to the other direction of traffic intended to stop, making eye contact with the first driver who must stop, according to "Techniques of Traffic Enforcement."
To begin traffic, the officer points at the first driver intended to begin driving, then upturns the palm and bends the elbow, drawing the palm in a "come forward" motion that extends past the head, according to "Techniques of Traffic Enforcement."
Other techniques encourage right-hand and left-hand turns.
Police officers may use whistles to direct and control traffic. One whistle blast means "stop;" two whistle blasts means "go," according to "Techniques of Traffic Enforcement." Repeated short blasts may be used to attract the attention of individuals not responding to traffic direction and control.
Police officers rarely use their voices to direct and control traffic, according to "Techniques of Traffic Enforcement." But when drivers or pedestrians do not understand hand gestures or whistle techniques, the officer may choose to politely approach them and explain what they are to do.
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