Imagine being a law enforcement officer and getting a call where speed becomes necessary in order to get to a particular scene.
That was the scenario played out for several deputies with the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department and officers with the Thomson Police Department last Thursday. The law enforcement officers took part in classroom training and then headed into a trailer to participate in a driver-simulator course where they demonstrated their skills in a computerized make-believe world of defensive driving skills.
A total of 18 local law enforcement officers took the class last week with several more expected to take the defensive driving course this week.
"It reduces the amount of insurance the county and city pay out by taking the course," said Major Ronnie Williamson of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department. "It's a good savings for taxpayers. And hopefully, it will help reduce accidents by deputies and police officers."
The class was taught by David Trotter, a public safety driving instructor with Local Government Risk Management Services, Inc. It is a service organization of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).
Mr. Trotter is a Georgia POST-certified law enforcement officer with more than 20 years of experience. He also is a POST-certified general instructor and senior instructor with specialized instructor certification in Emergency Vehicle Operation, Railroad Grade Crossing Incident Management. In addition, Mr. Trotter also is certified by the California Highway Patrol as a Pursuit Immobilization Technique (PIT) instructor.
"The training class allows a law enforcement driver to be put into everyday driving and emergency response situations without actually being out on the road and in their vehicle," Mr. Trotter said.
During the actual simulator portion of the training, student-officers observe as a fellow student-officer sits down in a seat, traps on his or her seat belt and is then put through a series of driving scenarios. The instructor is allowed to choose from any of more than 80 scenarios.
"Just by nature, we all are distracted as drivers," Mr. Trotter told officers in the training classroom of the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center.
He pointed out that emotions play a role for everyone who drives and "fear can actually save your life."
Mr. Trotter explained when motorists, including law enforcement officers, don't get enough exercise - don't eat right and so on, "it affects the way we drive."
He said law enforcement officers should follow the 2-4 second rule when they have limited sight distance.
"Slow down," Mr. Trotter said. "And clear the blind spots and clear intersections one lane at a time."
He also cautioned officers not to rely on just a glance.
"You may miss something important," Mr. Trotter said. "If you don't make it to where you need to be, you can't help anybody. Remember that folks."