Driving training for police officers

Saturday, October 15th 2005, 6:55 pm
By: News On 6

More police officers are killed every year in traffic accidents than any other cause of death. Experts say such fatalities have gone up nearly 40-percent in recent years.

That's why Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Sand Springs Police are joining forces, offering driving skills training to smaller departments which otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity.

A patrol car flips at a high rate of speed, killing the officer behind the wheel and a passenger. It's a tragedy instructors of this driving skills course say didn't have to happen. Most states don't require any additional training once officers leave the academy.

Instructors say there's often a mentality that police don't need to learn more, that it's just driving.

Tulsa Police Captain Travis Yates: "So we literally have officers around the country in the community that haven't had training in 10-20-30 years."

But in an emergency these skills must be second nature. The training starts at slow speeds mastering special steering techniques and basic manuvers then officers gradually give it some gas.

Traffic accidents are now the leading cause of death for officers killed in the line of duty. They have to keep an eye on the radio a computer screen and watch the road, making split second decisions, often at a high rate of speed. Even taking this course slowly, it's easy to make a mistake."

Kick it up another 50 or 60 miles an hour in a real pursuit and that simple mistake could cost your life.

Driving trainee: "It's tremdously difficult, many people don't realize that officers have many decisions to make in that particular situation these driving skills they're teaching us are going to help enforce those decisions and help us make them quicker."

Tulsa Police Captain Travis Yates: "Most officers go their careers, thank goodness, without using their firearms. But one thing every officer does do every day, is drive a car."

Specialized police training can cost departments as much as a thousand dollars a day. Tulsa is providing it to smaller agencies for free.