TERRE HAUTE —
Driving a police vehicle to an emergency scene isn’t as easy as it might appear.
That’s some first-hand knowledge from a seasoned journalist who has done her share of quickly responding to breaking news scenes — while driving within the boundaries of speed limits and traffic controls, of course.
As emergency responders know too well, just because the sirens are screaming and lights are flashing, that doesn’t mean that the motoring public comprises observant and careful drivers who get out of the way.
Police officers are trained to drive defensively at all times, especially when they are pursuing a vehicle or traveling to the scene of an emergency.
To stay sharp in their skills, officers are now required by state law to have continuing education with indoor and outdoor training.
For that reason, all deputies with the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department received training l;ast week in an Emergency Vehicle Operation Course Simulator, parked in a mobile trailer outside the Vigo County Jail.
To demonstrate the skill it requires — and just for fun — Chief Deputy Clark Cottom and training Sgt. John Davis invited a Tribune-Star newspaper reporter (yours truly) and a photographer to steer the simulator through a vehicle pursuit.
“This has been a very, very popular training program,” Cottom said of the deputy reaction to the training. “They get the adrenaline flowing. The heart rate increases. It’s a safe way we can put officers in high-stress and otherwise dangerous situations.”
The simulator not only tests skills in pursuits, but also checks reactions to changing weather conditions, and mechanical failures such as tire blow-outs and loss of brakes.
State law allows officers to exceed the posted speed limit and proceed through traffic controls, Cottom said, but they must have “due regard for others” on the road, both pedestrians and motorists.
“We have to reinforce that when officers are going through with lights and sirens, they need to slow down and check for others,” Cottom said. “If we hurt others on our way to respond to an emergency, then what good are we doing? We are trying to prevent injuries and death.”
The simulator — rented for the week from EnMark Simulators of Bloomington — has a Crown Victoria dashboard and accompanying equipment, because that is the most commonly used police vehicle. Turning the ignition key and putting the car into gear places the “driver” into the simulated scenario, which plays out across three large video screens that dominate the view.
Cottom gave a quick warning — that some drivers get a bit “motion sick” because visually the driving seems real, but that does not translate to the driver’s inner ear, and that could result in some dizziness. (Yeah.)
And it is a noisy and somewhat distracting scenario. Just as police officers do, the driver must keep steering with the left hand while turning on the lights and sirens and talking on the radio with the right hand. Forget Texting While Driving! Try calling out street names and directions while keeping a fleeing vehicle in view, all while watching for — ahem — “idiot drivers” who pull out in front of you, or who panic and stop in your way!
“This happens all the time for us,” Cottom said, referring to traffic that just continues merrily through intersections in front of the approaching officer — despite the warning sirens and lights.
“A lot of the time, as officers we will hear our own siren, and not hear others,” Cottom said. “That’s why we will change our tone as we approach an intersection, to let others know we are entering.”
With Davis operating the control computer, setting up the scenario and giving advance notice on what action was coming, it wasn’t too difficult to drive through the streets, avoiding hazards and cutting through parking lots.
Until the big yellow taxi crashed into the passenger side of my car!
Who failed to slow and check the intersection for unobservant drivers? Me!
But I had my siren blaring!
Then let’s try that again. … Okay, I avoided the taxi. I (But I memorized his number and he’s getting at least a phone call later!) And I slowed at each of the next intersections, which the fleeing motorist also has to do to avoid drivers who don’t appreciate his decision to flee. And when he (my own gender bias for the “bad guy”) finally does stop, I position my car behind him and to the left so I can take cover behind the police car’s engine block if he decides to jump out and start shooting at me. (Really? Why would anyone shoot at me? I carry only a notebook and an ink pen.)
But as Cottom notes, police officers are not always sure who they are trying to pull over, and what that person is thinking.
“A traffic stop for an expired license plate can quickly turn into a high-speed pursuit,” he said. When that happens, an officer must use his or her judgment on when to end a pursuit because of the danger to the public, the offender and the officer.
“A lot of times, we’ll discontinue our pursuit,” he said. “We teach in class when officers need to discontinue pursuit.”
Usually, the officer has already recorded the vehicle’s license plate and description, so the offending motorist only delays an inevitable arrest in the future.
The training simulation was a fun and lesson-filled event. Cottom said that VCSD rented the simulator from EnMark at a cost of $4,500. The cost is covered by the fees charged for crash reports, which are earmarked by law for training purposes.
“We have a little bit better training budget than other departments,” Cottom said, “so that is why we included the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department and West Terre Haute Police this week to go through this training with us.”
In the summer, the outdoor emergency road training will be conducted at Hulman Field, where deputies can do live high-speed driving on the runway.
Hopefully, a certain reporter will be invited to continue her emergency scenario training as well.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.
Virtual Pursuit: Vigo County Sheriff’s Department training on Emergency Vehicle Operation Course Simulator
TERRE HAUTE —
Driving a police vehicle to an emergency scene isn’t as easy as it might appear.
A real page turner
Victory was sweet for the Franklin Elementary teammates, who won their first ever Battle of the Books competition Thursday at Meadows Elementary.
Rep. Bucshon leads discussion on minority care in Vigo County
The list of problems seems endless: Lack of health insurance, mental illness, cultural barriers and stigmas about routine medical check ups, to name only a few.
Vigo County students, educators recently made a 2-week trip to Terre Haute’s sister city of Tajimi
Six Vigo County high school students and two educators, including superintendent Dan Tanoos, recently returned from a two-week cultural exchange trip to Tajimi, Japan.
Tribune-Star columnist named company’s best
The Tribune-Star’s Mark Bennett has been named CNHI’s Columnist of the Year for 2013 in its large newspaper division.
Clay man arrested on drug charges
An eight-month investigation by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of Wednesday of a Clay County man on meth-related charges, authorities said.
Drug raid leads to arrest of siblings
Siblings were arrested Thursday after police said they discovered an active meth lab in a Terre Haute home, authorities said.
Visions, Voices project to mark decade of work
Wabash Valley Visions & Voices Digital Memory Project will mark a decade of Hoosier historical preservation at its anniversary kickoff event Tuesday.
An ambassador of Wabash Valley sports
Veteran Tribune-Star sports reporter Andy Amey will be inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame on Saturday in Indianapolis.
Former Vigo treasurer facing $26,000 bill
Former Vigo County Treasurer David Crockett could be required to personally pay back more than $26,000 to reconcile a bookkeeping discrepancy discovered in 2012 during an audit from the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
MARK BENNETT: Cleaning up Indiana could be as easy as a 10¢ deposit
Scan the roadside on a drive through the Wabash Valley, and you might spot an empty pop bottle or two.
Wabash Valley Foundation hands out $104,925
Looking around the West Terre Haute Little League park last year, Wade Fulford said, he was one of the league’s board members who realized improvements needed to be made.
Graduation rates fall at three big Vigo high schools
The Indiana Department of Education released graduation rate data Tuesday for the 2012-2013 school year.
Bloomfield man killed in Tuesday night crash
A Bloomfield man was killed in a single-vehicle crash Tuesday night in central Greene County.
Central Indiana Girl Scouts council kicks off capital campaign
Local support is growing for a Girl Scouts of Central Indiana initiative to nurture female leaders.
Zoning Appeals Board grants alley variance for ISU downtown housing building
A unanimous vote from the Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday cleared the way for foundation work to start on the construction of a new five-story building to house Indiana State University students, a restaurant and retail shops at 500 Wabash Ave.
Courthouse polling closed for weekend
An absentee polling site at the Vigo County Courthouse is scheduled to be closed Friday and Saturday.
Airport Board frustrated over moving of power lines
Terre Haute International Airport officials are working on a power line project that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they seem to have their lines tangled with a utility company.
Second deputy charged in Putnam probe
A Putnam County reserve deputy has been indicted on federal charges of public corruption in connection with an investigation of another deputy.
April cold snap not expected to have big impact on fruit, flower crops
It may be spring, but this morning’s forecast temperatures in the mid to upper 20s will bring chilly memories of a harsh winter.
City Council tables graffiti, financial consultant items
The Terre Haute City Council voted to table two of the larger items on its agenda Tuesday night in City Hall.
Expanded 911 system available in Vigo County
An expanded 911 emergency alert system is now available in Vigo County, public safety officials have announced.
181st Airmen undergoing training, evaluation
Airmen from the 181st Intelligence Wing of the Indiana Air National Guard are being evaluated on disaster first response skills this week at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville.
Educators: Indiana's new academic standards similar to old
Indiana’s proposed new academic standards have much overlap with the Common Core State Standards, says a Vigo County School Corp. administrator.
Funding glitch delaying North 6th Street drainage project
Lack of funding will delay the second phase of a drainage project along North Sixth Street at Eighth Avenue.
South Vigo, four other Wabash Valley schools get Four Star status
Three Wabash Valley high schools and two local elementary schools are among Indiana’s Four Star schools for 2012-13, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz announced Tuesday.
A side of casual
Care for some waffles with your chicken? If you answered “yes,” then J. Ford’s Black Angus is for you.
Mailbox by midnight?
Forget going to a mailbox before midnight. A record number of U.S. residents are expected to file tax returns electronically to meet today’s tax deadline.
Marcie Brock knows what it’s like to be a small child in a hospital bed, facing huge medical challenges.
Tax break: Businesses offering freebies
Tax day is here.
Mo-ped driver airlifted to Indy hospital
A Terre Haute man who had been driving a mo-ped was airlifted to an Indianapolis hospital Monday morning after a 6:30 a.m. collision at Lafayette Avenue and Seventh Street.
- More News Headlines
- A real page turner