In 2011, for the first time in more than a decade, more police officers were killed in the line of duty by vehicle crashes than gunfire. This is made even more significant by the fact that officers receive extensive training in vehicle safety and are required to complete a traffic school as part of their academy training. That’s the first time since 1997 that more on-duty officers were killed in vehicle crashes than by guns.

So far this year, 8 police officers have died around the nation in vehicle crashes. That is three less than last year during this same time period, but still too many. The Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring fallen law enforcement officers, tracks all instances of officers killed in the line of duty.

Officers risk their lives to protect the safety of the public and any death of a police officer on duty it too many, but accidents happen, and officers are no more immortal than anyone else who travels the roads with them.

For many years police cruisers did not even come equipped with seat belts, but today’s vehicles have some of the most advanced safety features of any vehicle on the road. Anti-lock brakes, side cushion, driver and passenger side air bags; collision avoidance systems and more safety features help ward officers from traffic crashes, but even this is not enough when you consider the rigors of a job which can put them in high-speed chase at a moments notice.

Just because they wear a gun and a badge does not mean police officers are impervious from danger and injury. In fact, due to the nature of the work that they do they stand a greater risk of being involved in a situation which risks their life and health. Traffic safety, meaning the safety of other drivers is their first concern. Hopefully more officers will start putting their own safety at the top of their list as well.