What are the Duties of the Traffic Officer?

Traffic officers are integral members of police departments, with a very specialized focus. In this lesson, explore the duties of the traffic officer and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Traffic Officers

Oh boy, look there’s an accident on the road. This can really back things up. Luckily, the police are prepared to handle this. And here we go. This is Officer Jane Study. She is a traffic officer, a specialized police officer responsible for traffic-related incidents. Traffic officers are fully trained, sworn-in members of the police, but instead of dealing with crime, they are focused specifically on roads and the people on those roads. It’s an important job. You may have noticed, but our roads are in pretty high demand. We use them a lot, so maintaining road safety and efficiency is kind of important to our daily lives. Tell you what, let’s follow Officer Study here for a day and see what being a traffic officer is really all about.

Duties of the Traffic Officer

In many senses, traffic officers are really responsible for making sure that the roads keep running. Like I said, we use our roads a lot, and the position of traffic officer was really created to help police patrols manage all of the things that happen on the roads. Let’s watch Officer Study as she performs some of the more visible aspects of her job.

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Okay, here’s that traffic accident. If there were major injuries, loss of life, or criminal activity, then this would be an issue for patrol police officers, but there are none of these things, so Officer Study can take care of it. She assists the drivers in getting their vehicles to the side of the road, takes reports on the incident, ensures that tow trucks are on their way, and in this case, with all of this broken glass, also closes down part of the road and directs traffic until a cleanup crew arrives. Without Officer Study, either one of two things would have happened here. Another police officer who is involved in a criminal raid would have to stop what they’re working on and come over here, or nobody would be taking care of this and traffic would be an absolute mess. Nice work, Officer Study.

Now, that’s only one part of Officer Study’s job. She has a lot of behind-the-scenes duties as well. In general, she needs to monitor the roadways for potential risks and areas of improvement. She also makes sure that traffic signs are where they should be, completes reports on traffic statistics for the city, educates the public on new rules or safety guidelines, and oversees the administration of federal traffic and highways grants and other resources. Whew, we’ve been busy, is it time for a doughnut break yet?

Role in the Community

Police officers, of all varieties, exist to protect and serve. That’s the motto – and actually one of the very important duties of the traffic officer. For many of us, traffic officers are the cops who we’ll see most often on a daily basis. Maintaining visibility is an important part of maintaining community relations, which is a major priority for all police departments. By keeping traffic officers patrolling the streets and ensuring that those officers are prepared to help the public in all roadside issues, the police maintain public trust and a sense of general safety. Let’s face it, there’s something reassuring about seeing police on the road. Unless you’re speeding. In which case, it’s reassuring for everyone else around you to see police on the road! The point is, with patrol officers often engaged in criminal-related incidents, we don’t actually see them that often. We do see traffic officers. We see them keeping the roads safe and free of congestion, we see them at public events about road safety, many kids see them in school for educational purposes. In many ways, traffic officers are the public face of the police department. How’s that for a big responsibility?

Lesson Summary

A traffic officer is a specialized police officer responsible for traffic-related incidents. Traffic officers are sworn-in police, but they focus almost exclusively on maintaining traffic safety and efficiency on the roads. This is the focus of their duties, which can include directing traffic, managing accidents, administering federal traffic money, and educating the public on laws and safety guidelines. However, if an accident results in major injuries, loss of life, or criminal activity, it is no longer an issue for traffic officers and must be handled by a full patrol officer. Since traffic officers are more frequently in direct contact with average people, another of their primary roles is maintaining the visibility of the police department, which builds trust and a sense of community safety. Well, thanks for letting us tag along, Officer Study. We’ll do doughnuts next time.

Key Roles

traffic officer
  • Duties
    • Directing traffic
    • Traffic accident management
    • Public education
    • Monitoring the roadways for potential risks and areas of improvement
    • Completing reports on traffic statistics
    • Ensuring road signs are where they should be
  • Community Roles
    • Maintaining visibility
    • Helping with roadside issues

Learning Outcomes

Going through the lesson section by section can prepare you to:

  • Provide a formal definition and understand the duties of a traffic officer
  • Discuss the role of a traffic officer in the community
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