By CARRIE BANKS | Communications director, Alabama League of Municipalities
Because they must often operate vehicles at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, driving skills are critical for law enforcement and emergency personnel.
Alabama League of Municipalities’ Loss Control Division has offered Proactive Driver Training to members of its Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation and Municipal Workers Compensation Fund programs for more than 12 years. In April 2000, a state-of-the-art Skidcar System was purchased and training began throughout the state in early 2001.
The Swedish-made Skidcar System has been shown to instill better driving instincts, which help drivers maintain control in the most difficult real-life situations, and is specifically designed to aid in the development of techniques that would be risky to learn in a regular vehicle at higher speeds.
It consists of a steel framework on electro-hydraulic wheels attached to the suspension of a vehicle that, through the use of an instructor-operated electronic controller, can be adjusted to simulate loss of front, rear or four-wheel grip at low speeds. This means the instructor can create subtle to extreme skid conditions at a low speed in a small geographic space.
In October 2011, AMIC/MWCF purchased a new vehicle for its Proactive Driver Program — a state-of-the-art Chevrolet Caprice ProgramPolice Patrol Vehicle built in Australia and specially designed with electronic stabilization.
“This car uses a computer to sense if the driver is yawing to the left or right and then uses the braking system and throttle and steering control to help the driver avoid or overcome a skid,” said Stanley Fant, a 30-year law enforcement veteran and Skidcar coordinator for AMIC/MWCF. “It gives the driver feedback in order to perform safer driving techniques. The Alabama League is the first organization to use this newly designed vehicle in a Skidcar program.”
AMIC/MWCF’s Proactive Driver Training Program is offered throughout the state at various times of the year and consists of a daylong session, in which a maximum of nine people are trained using the Skidcar System. The first hour of the course takes place in a classroom setting. The remainder of the program is hands-on and completed in shifts: three participants ride in the vehicle (one driving, two in the back seat) with the instructor while the remaining six observe how the vehicle responds and help maintain the training course. AMIC/MWCF’s goal is to provide as many drivers as possible with the techniques and skills to safely overcome adverse driving situations they might encounter on a day-to-day basis.
For information on this unique training system, visit www.losscontrol.org