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Safe driver training for law enforcement?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Emergency Services Vehicles

Safe driver training for law enforcement?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
October 4, 2009

Today's Chicago Tribune reports that five people, including two police officers, were injured at 1:45AM at a Chicago West Side intersection crash.

The officers were responding to a "shots fired" call with lights and siren. The article reports the officers had the right of way, but it failed to state which driver had a green light. The article also reports that a CPD news guy said, "Alcohol was possibly a factor in the accident." Good one. Keep your guys covered.

This and other police accidents cause me to wonder what in-service driving training is given to McHenry County law enforcement officers. On the streets and roads of McHenry County are many deputy sheriffs and police officers from many jurisdictions: County, municipal, parks districts. Some have years on the force; some are new.

What kind of safe-driver training is given to these officers? Any? What refresher courses are given and how often? And what is the actual training that is provided?

Use of red/blue lights and/or siren gives only limited right-of-way to the driver. However, he cannot blow a red light indiscriminately. He cannot just rip through an intersection controlled by stop signs. Drivers of police vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances are required to exercise caution when using emergency equipment. They must drive so as to avoid accidents. If they violate that caution rule, then they have violated an important state traffic law and they can be cited.

Better yet is for departments to provide on-going training to officers. Not just reminders about safe driving, but actual practice. Where can they safely get such practice? There are numerous courses conducted around the country where officers can practice high-speed driving and skids, along with emergency stopping.

Reading about it is one thing. Watching a video is another. Doing it is the real thing.

High-speed pursuits are infrequent, but any officer can become involved. And at any time. Just as officers should practice unusual practical shooting situations at the firing range, they should have the opportunity to practice real-life, high-speed or pursuit driving situations. Just how do you safely pursue a driver who refuses to stop?

Communities must provide enough training dollars for this. If they don't, they'll just be paying out the big bucks to settle claims.

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