To help the Dale County Sheriff's Office and county employees with their driving skills, the Association of County Commissions of Alabama brought a driving simulator to Ozark for a four-day event Oct. 21-24.
The purpose of the simulator was to test participant’s behavioral skills in order to train the individuals to make smarter decisions behind the wheel.
The driving simulator, set up behind the Dale County Jail, provided county employees with real-world driving situations they could encounter while on the road, such as weather changes, a flat tire, pedestrians crossing the street or a vehicle running a red light.
On the law enforcement side, deputies were given scripted scenarios involving emergency calls, burglary in progress, vehicle pursuit and others.
The simulator is designed to familiarize employees with driving hazards and conditions. It also provides a 180-degree angle view with front, side and rear view mirrors.
Dale County Sheriff's Office investigator Mason Bynum said the simulator was an excellent asset for county employees to use to experience training in an accident-free environment.
“It’s another tool for county employees to use to refresh on their driving practices,” he said. “We’d rather them make a mistake on a simulator than out on the road and cause injury or property damage.”
Bynum also noted the cost of vehicle accidents are high, and training in a driving simulator can help reduce the costs of collisions, injuries and insurance.
Kendall Hatfield, Dale County Sheriff’s Office use of force instructor, conducted the free, 30-minute driving simulator course.
Hatfield said although the program does not provide a score, it has received positive feedback from participants.
Tim Crooks, Dale County Sheriff’s Office investigator, said he enjoyed it because the scenarios almost felt real at times.
“Some of the scenarios are realistic to the point that you know when not to speed through an intersection or not to assume that traffic is going to do a certain thing,” he said. “I think it’s a good practice for all of us.”
The free service was also offered to surrounding sheriff's offices through Dale County, including Bullock, Henry, Geneva, Crenshaw, Houston, Barbour and Covington counties.