Law enforcement officers confront dangerous and deadly situations daily. More than 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States encounter potential hazards every day they go out to serve their communities. A ten-year average shows that more than one officer has died behind the wheel every other week.
This is why law enforcement driving simulators are so crucial for proper training. While a police car simulator can’t prepare training officers for everything, it can help retrain their brains to respond to a variety of situations. Knowing how to adapt and react to often-shifting circumstances means the difference between success and tragic failure.
Why Law Enforcement Driving Simulators Are Crucial for Training According to a Professional Officer and Trainer
For more insight into the value of driver training, we consulted a veteran trainer. Jeff Eggleston was a police officer in the state of Ohio for 33 years. He worked for the Urbana Police Department, Marysville Police Department and for the last twelve years of his career, he trainged other officers in different driving techniques at Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. He is intimately aware of what law enforcement officers encounter day after day.
Today, he is currently the Curriculum Manager within the driver simulator division of L3Harris.
Using his experience to influence his training lessons, Eggleston shares with L3Harris how driving simulators improve modern law enforcement training.
What Dangers Do a Law Enforcement Face When Driving?
When working Non-Emergency Vehicle Operations, first responders face all the same hazards regular drivers face on the roadways. Unlike other first responders, such as fire or EMS personnel, law enforcement uniquely faces the responsibility of everyday driving, with additional duties when on patrol.
Officers have to observe everything around the vehicle — not only for traffic hazards but for any potential danger or law violation. This could be as simple as monitoring the radar unit for speeders or as complex as reading messages on the in-car computer and typing responses.
Are There Any Driving Conditions That Are Common Dangers to Police Officers?
I referred to some common dangers above, but additional danger develops when the situation changes for the officer. Emergency Vehicle Operations change the driving task and risks significantly — this is when the officer must respond to a situation that demands the use of lights and sirens.
Every law enforcement agency has policies in place that govern officers’ actions. Emergency response is part of those rules. The officer must decide if the situation warrants lights and sirens and then operate the vehicle within policy. The officer must also know and keep in mind applicable local, state, and federal rules, laws, regulations and case law applicable to the response.
What Runs Through an Officer’s Mind During EVO Driving
Officers do all these tasks mentioned before while communicating with dispatch and other officers about the call. While driving, the officer is also turning equipment on and dealing with the sound of the siren and the reflection of the lights as a distraction.
The officer must also make a plan of action upon arrival by answering questions such as:
- Where should they park?
- How should they approach the suspect?
- Is more backup needed?
- Where should other assistance be located?
- How many suspects are there, what do they look like and are they armed?
- Are there victims, and do we need an ambulance?
- Where should the ambulance stage as they wait for the scene to be safe?
This is all going through the officer’s head while visually clearing intersections before entering, maneuvering through stopped traffic, looking for pedestrians or animals that may enter the road, and possibly keeping an assured clear distance from another police vehicle responding just ahead.
Pursuit Driving Requires Quick Decision-Making Under Stressful Situations
Another type of driving encountered by law enforcement is pursuit driving. In this circumstance, everything described above still applies—with some additions. The officer now must consider the need to apprehend the suspect as balanced against the safety of the public.
This is not an easy decision and must be made under stress. More questions apply:
- What was the initial violation, misdemeanor or felony?
- Is this chase within the police policy and the laws mentioned above?
- Where is the violator going, are they armed and how many are in the vehicle?
- Where is my backup?
- How do I handle the situation if the suspect(s):
- Stop and run?
- Stop and begin shooting?
- Stop and refuse to exit?
- What are the road conditions:
- Is traffic heavy or light?
- What type of road will be driven on?
- What are the weather conditions?
- How does all this affect decisions to proceed?
What Is the Primary Concern of Law Enforcement When Driving?
The safety of the public and themselves.
Why Is Driver Training Essential for Police Officers?
For all reasons already listed, and because the decision-making process while operating a police vehicle is dramatically different than any other driver action.
How Do Driving Simulators Help with Training Police Officers?
Decision-making is the main reason simulators are a tremendous tool for law enforcement training. Scenarios can be introduced for the officer in training to make decisions and handle distractions in a safe environment. Without a police simulator, a bad decision could cause harm, but with a driving simulator, the mistake is teachable. Additionally, good decisions can be applauded.
The easily repeatable scenarios allow an opportunity to try again if a mistake is made.
Any First-Hand Experience and Knowledge You Can Share with Police Officer Driver Training?
I spent 33 years on the force and am now retired. I spent the last 12 years of my career as the lead instructor in charge of driver training at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. We train drivers in slow-speed cone events, high-speed driving, pursuit termination techniques, dignitary protection and proper ramming techniques.
I wrote the curriculum for Ohio and shared it with other states and the federal training facilities. I also act as an expert witness in civil cases dealing with police driving and pursuits.
L3Harris Has Top-of-the-Line Driving Simulators for Law Enforcement
As Jeff Eggleston said, having sharp decision-making skills is what keeps officers and the public safe. Using a law enforcement driving simulator allows for muscle memory training without worrying about the physical consequences of mistakes, wear and tear on vehicles, or wasting fuel.
L3Harris’ PatrolSim™ is the most realistic training simulation for emergency vehicle operations training. It provides hands-on training and immediate performance assessment.