WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Last year, Wilmington police officers were involved in 29 car collisions that could have been prevented – a spike of more than 800 percent from 2012, according to a draft of the department's annual safety report.
Accidents while backing up accounted for about half of the preventable crashes last year.
"I noticed there was an increase in accidents where officers simply backed into things such as light poles, walls, electric boxes, and other stationary objects," wrote Sgt. J.P. Musacchio, the department's safety officer who authored the report.
In all, Wilmington police officers were involved in 68 crashes last year.
"Inevitably when officers are responding to emergency calls or chasing suspects, a vehicle collision will happen," the review states.
The department saw an increase in collisions caused by "inattention." There were 10 such collisions in 2012 and 17 in 2013.
Sometimes officers take their eyes off the road to look for an address or to glance at the computers mounted in their cars, the report explains.
"As technology has advanced, our cars are like cockpits," said Capt. Randy Pait, who oversees the department's new planning and research division. "While we enhance their ability to do their job, the counter side to that is we actually jeopardize them doing their job at the same time."
The report recommends "the department re-emphasize the importance of paying attention."
Backing collisions could be reduced by installing rear-view cameras or purchasing new vehicles with backing sensors, the report suggests.
The department is also considering a black and white color scheme to make patrol cars more visible.
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