Officers learn to keep four wheels on the road

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2005

One of the prerequisites for any patrol officer is knowing what to do, and not to do, behind the wheel of their patrol car.

One way officers can get training on emergency driving techniques is through a program made available through the Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation. The program, dubbed Protective Driver Training, uses a specially modified car that sits on a ladder frame with hydraulic outrigger casters mounted to the suspension of the training vehicle. When activated by the instructor, the electronic system lifts the vehicle off the ground just enough for the tires to lose traction. As a result, the car skids as if it were going 60 MPH when in reality it is going much slower.

"This is the first time we've done this type of training," said Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram, who says signed his officers up for the training so they would be better prepared to handle difficult driving situations.

The training is conducted by Stanley Fant, a retired Alabama State Trooper.

"It is designed to teach the officers how to safely get out of a skid and how to avoid them," Fant said. "The key is to keep the car stable by staying off the breaks and keeping the hands low on the wheel to keep from over-steering."

Along with Greenville police officers and fire department personnel, Brewton, Evergreen and Monroeville sent officers to the training. Seargeant Feast Broughton with the Brewton Police Department said this is the second set of officers that have been trained by the SkidCar System and that the training has paid off.

"We have a place in Brewton that when it rains there is a lot of hydroplaning that goes on," he said. "This training has helped us learn how not to overcompensate."

Before officers can get behind the wheel, they have to complete an hour of classroom training.

Brewton officer Jason Yoder said the experience opened his eyes to what it's like to be behind the wheel of an out-of-control car.

"It's like being on ice," he said. "You have no control."