Started by Mike Allen in 2008, The Younger Officer Unified Training Habits (YOUTH) Program is designed to reduce officer injuries and deaths from vehicle-related incidents. Allen was witnessing too many preventable vehicle collisions involving younger officers in his department and nationwide to let them go unnoticed. Looking into it, he found that “2008 was the 11th consecutive year traffic-related incidents were the leading cause of LODDs.”
He came up with an idea of a younger driver program to increase officer safety. He gathered vehicle-safety materials to create a program manual. In 2009, he successfully instituted the program at local departments. In December 2010, he launched the YOUTH website, officially kicking off a national campaign.
The program is simple: Download the manual and implement best practices to suit the needs of your department. The manual acts as a guideline—filled with tips and strategies on how to increase officer safety during vehicle operation. It includes a ride-along program for new officers: Supervisors and trainers are encouraged to accompany their officers once a month for at least a year to assess their skills. It also offers information on enhancing driving practices, stress and mindset, pursuit awareness and prisoner securement.
Allen highlights the important aspects of safe driving in the manual. “The ultimate achievement in our profession is winning and surviving,” he says.
The website also features weekly tips and strategy articles, monthly videos on similar topics found in the manual, as well as news of recent vehicle-related accidents and deaths of officers.
Although it’s aimed at younger officers, the information found in the program can be beneficial to all ages and ranks. “The program was initially targeted at younger officers because, generally speaking, they have less experience. You could be a great driver, but that won’t help you if you don’t have the right on-duty mindset. That’s something that comes with experience and training.”
What’s next for YOUTH? Allen wants to reach law enforcement nationwide, as well as combine forces with Law Officer’s Below 100 initiative to promote officer safety. “2010 was the 13th consecutive year that the majority of LODDs were due to vehicle-related incidents,” and he’d like to see 2011 not have the same result.
For more information about The Y.O.U.T.H Program, please visit www.youth-2008.com.
Top 5 Vehicle Safety Tips
By Mike Allen
1. Speed. Be aware of your environment (road conditions, traffic conditions, weather conditions, etc.) before you decide to press your gas pedal a little harder.
2. Intersections. When running code and entering an intersection, stop and clear that intersection lane by lane (in both directions) before continuing through it.
Remember: You can be civilly liable for anything that may occur.
3. Distractions. With an increase of technology inside of our patrol vehicles these days, even the best of us are bound to get distracted. Remember: Use tools wisely and at the appropriate times.
4. Seatbelts. Even if your agency doesn’t enforce wearing seatbelts, you should always buckle in. Many severe injuries can be prevented by simply wearing your belt.
5. On-duty mindset. Be alert to the actions and reactions of vehicles ahead of you and around you. Go to work with an on-duty mindset.