13 officers killed in auto crashes this year in US

Jacksonville Officer Lance Whitaker dies in line of duty as result of car crash

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville police officer was killed in the line of duty as the result of a crash Tuesday, just days after the FBI released sobering statistics on officers killed in the line of duty. 

According to the Officer Down Memorial website, Jacksonville sheriff's officer Lance Whitaker was 13th officer killed in a traffic crash so far this year in the United States.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said that has always been one of his concerns. 

"If you're going to get hurt in this job, one of the main ways you're going to get hurt on this job is in traffic, a traffic crash of some sort," Williams said.

Last year, according to the FBI, 47 officers in the U.S. died in accidents while on duty. Twenty-nine of those deaths involved officers killed in car crashes. 

The FBI data shows the two leading causes of law enforcement deaths are criminal acts against officers and car crashes. 

"Automobile accidents, line of duty deaths involving police officers, have typically been the No. 2 cause of death," said Steve Zona, president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police.

According to the FBI, of last year’s 29 officer deaths on the road, 15 of the fatalities involved officers who were not wearing seatbelts. Two of those 15 include officers who were sitting in parked cars. 

FBI data also shows, last year, 46 law enforcement officers died as a result of criminal acts against them.

Randy Reaves, vice president of Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, said he was not surprised by that number, given the fact that three law enforcement officers in Florida were shot to death within the last several weeks. 

“It just shows you the danger our officers see every single day -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

Reaves added that statistics show that more people support police, compared to a small number of people who have no respect for officers or their lives. 

According to the Officer Down Memorial website, Whitaker was the fifth law enforcement officer in Florida to die in the line of duty this year, and the 54th in the U.S.

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