Seventeen LaGrange Police Officers dodged cones, bicycles and basketballs in simulated high-stress traffic scenarios during emergency driving training Wednesday. The training was part of a week-long quarterly driving training session at the Indian Springs Campground at West Point Lake.
Instructors Lt. Mark Kostial, Sgt. Marshall McCoy and Cpl. Larry Lemee taught a classroom of officers, separated by shifts, and setup the driving course. The trio also played roles of fleeing suspects in a variety of scenarios which would necessitate officers using their blue lights and sirens.
“It’s very realistic,” Officer Greg Civers said.
Knowing names and using landmarks is an important part of the course, he said. Main Street, Easy Street and 2nd Avenue were among the posted street names.
“You have so many things going on at once,” Civers said. “On top of that, you have to know where you are.”
Speed limit signs of 30 mph were posted throughout the park. Company policy only allows officers to exceed the speed limit by a maximum of 20 mph in a non-controlled roadway, which is any road that intersects with many others. Kostial said officers may exceed the posted speed limit by a maximum of 30 mph on controlled access roadways.
“It wouldn’t be feasible to put speed caps on traffic enforcement,” Kostial said, adding that there are exceptions to the rule. Depending on the nature of the call, officers may request permission from an on-duty supervisor to exceed speed limits.
“That responsibility is on the officer,” he said. “They are the ones on the roadway and can immediately tell what needs to be done based on traffic and weather conditions.”
Driving training helps officers practice preventing tunnel vision, which is focus on one place rather than the surrounding area. Another danger of being affected by stress in these situations is not listening to what is going on around the patrol car.
“The most dangerous thing we do on a daily basis is our driving,” McCoy said. “I feel fortunate that we have a chief that allows us to come out here and do this.”
The police department plans to focus on pursuit driving for a week in August at a park made available by the US Army Corps of Engineers.