Police agencies participate in accident-training course

By Gus Bode

Pedestrians, parked vehicles, ice and wet pavements are just a few obstacles police officers may encounter during their daily routines. They are obstacles that can lead to tragedy and death. But with preparedness and awareness, they are obstacles that can be overcome safely.

Police officers from six southern Illinois law enforcement agencies, participated in an accident-training course at the SIU Safety Center and Driving Range Thursday. With a trainer at their side, drivers put their skills to the test as they wove

in-and-out of orange construction cones and skidded across the water soaked blacktop.

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The eight-hour course focused on pursuit and emergency driving situations and a hands on, behind-the-wheel session that includes controlled braking, skid situations and evasive techniques to avoid traffic accidents.

Jim Comingore, a driving instructor at the Safety Center and Driving Range, said the course, which teaches defensive driving techniques, is important for drivers in general, but especially important for police officers because of the extended hours they spend on the road.

“Do you want an officer who can’t avoid an accident on the road?” asked Comingore. “This makes them a safer driver and makes the streets safer. It gives them a better understanding of what their vehicle can do and what situations may arise.”

Dan Shannon, SIU safety and health specialist and trainer, said a study conducted by a SIU graduate student two years ago found that over a three-year period, people who participated in the course had a 25 percent reduction in traffic accidents.

“Most departments realize that by getting this training, they’re less apt to have a crash,” Shannon said. “And anything a department can do to enhance an officers skills is good for everybody.”

At the range, Mobile Unit 15, one of 16 units in the state, provides driving courses to 163 law enforcement agencies in 27 southern Illinois counties, including the SIUC and Carbondale police departments.

Mike Norrington, director of Mobile Team Unit 15, said an important element of the training is understanding the devastation a police pursuit can cause.

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“There are as many people killed each year in the United States by police pursuits as there are by police guns,” Norrington said. “That’s kind of a sad statistic. There’s nobody worth chasing that is going to be worth killing somebody for it.”

The course was developed by General Motors in the ’70s and was established at SIU in 1975. Since then, more than 12,000 groups have participated in the program.

The Safety Center and Driving Range offers more 200 courses in a variety of areas each year, including a motorcycle drivers education program. The facility is open to the general public, and anyone can take defensive driving courses.

Reporter Ashley Richardson can be reached at [email protected]

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