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Traffic-Related Deaths Are No. 1 Cause For Police Killed In Line Of Duty

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Police shootings tore apart many communities this year. But law enforcement officers were also victims of violence. One-hundred-twenty-four died in the line of duty in 2015, according to a new nationwide study. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says 52 officers were killed in traffic episodes across the country in 2015. Craig Floyd, the chief executive at the Memorial Fund, says that's part of an unfortunate pattern.

CRAIG FLOYD: Traffic-related deaths among officers have actually been the No. 1 cause of law enforcement fatalities in 15 of the last 20 years.

JOHNSON: Floyd says police have been working to get better training on driving at high speeds. Floyd also has some advice for motorists on how they can help.

FLOYD: Move over, and slow down when you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the roadway. Eleven officers this year were struck and killed by motorists who did not slow down, who did not move over.

JOHNSON: The number of officers gunned down on the job in 2015 actually declined this year despite high-profile ambushes like one in Texas. That's where a sheriff deputy was shot after filling up his cruiser at a gas station. In all, Floyd says 42 officers died in firearms attacks.

FLOYD: This nation of ours is a nation of guns. It's a right that the people have, and we honor that right. But at the same time, too many criminals are using guns illegally to commit violent acts not only against the citizenry but against the law enforcement professionals who have to go out and keep our communities safe.

JOHNSON: Floyd says he understands the scrutiny this year on police use of force against minorities. But he says the vast majority of officers work to help, not hurt, people in those communities every day. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.