The last time Dawson County Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Brantley took a defensive driving course, he was going through the academy.
“That was 10 years ago,” said Brantley, a corporal with the office’s traffic enforcement unit who would like more seat time on a training course.
“We get training every year on handguns. How many times do we pull our guns out a year? We’re in a 4,000-pound bullet 12 hours every day.”
Bob Bolz, the agency’s training coordinator, said Brantley isn’t alone in his desire to further his specialized driving training.
“All of our officers drive every day and that’s one of the things we spend the least amount of time training on,” Bolz said.
“So the idea was to give them the opportunity to get more training, especially specialized training where it’s geared toward public safety driving, which is different from regular, everyday driving.”
The simulator is made available through the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
On a recent morning, deputies spent four hours in the classroom focusing on vehicle dynamics, decision making and driver attitudes.
They then spent the afternoon in a simulator, designed to offer the closest scenarios to driver training on the road.
“Our officers are expected to go all the time in any kind of weather, often very quickly, if it’s an emergency situation,” Bolz said.
“We want to give them every opportunity to make some decisions in a safe environment like a simulator that’ll improve their chances in the real world, keep them safe and keep the public safe.”
Deputy Todd Day said the simulators help teach “what not to do.”
“You get to learn more about your driving without actually being out there having to wreck a car to learn your mistake,” he said.
“On here you learn, and then you go out and use it in the real world and put it to real use.”
Simulated training scenarios focused on both high- and low-speed chases with distractions such as other motorists, school buses and animals.
Lt. Tony Wooten said deputies often develop tunnel vision when responding to an emergency.
“You try to remember everything you’ve been trained to do,” he said. “Bringing this in gives them the opportunity to mess up on a simulator, to remind them to look at their surroundings and prepare for the unexpected.”
Bolz hopes to offer the course at least twice a year, along with state-mandated training available through the department.