From the Classroom to the Highway

“Forty percent of all traffic highway deaths in the U.S. are attributable to alcohol,” according to La Junta Trooper Dietrich.  He was one of three instructors in Lamar this past Wednesday through Friday, teaching a class in Standard Field Sobriety Tests at the Lamar Community Building.  Corporal Shane Scovel said the Colorado State Patrol hosted the classes for fifteen southeast Colorado officers, reviewing any updates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Scovel, who is one of seventeen CSP officers and one of the seven based in Lamar, said the tests cover three basic areas for patrolmen; the one-legged stand, walk and turn and what’s known as Horizon Gaze Nystagmus.  The officer said the voluntary tests are administered roadside, when a patrolman witnesses what he considers erratic behavior behind the wheel of a vehicle.  Trooper Dietrich said, “It may be alcohol related, or something different such as illegal drugs, or even over the counter or prescription drugs.”  He said there are various causes for erratic driving, but alcohol is still the main problem across the country.  Scovel added, “It’s a cumulative assessment on a patrolman’s part.  The course provides an opportunity for law enforcement to recognize and deal with various situations.” 

Scovel said the class will take the course to the next level Friday afternoon, with volunteers imbibing various amounts of alcohol to give the patrolmen “hands-on” experience with varying levels of the effects of inebriation.  “It’s called a wet lab,” he said,” and provides an opportunity to make periodic observations on eye and body movements when performing the sobriety tests.   We have to take into consideration a person’s metabolic rate, age, weight, height,  the quantity of alcohol and what type of alcohol has been consumed.  There’s a difference between beer and hard liquor and it all comes into play on a person’s performance in the tests.”  Dietrich said the volunteers are not members of the class, and are provided a designated driver.  At the end of the classes, a patrolmen is better prepared to help keep our highways safe.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: communityEducationLaw EnforcementPublic SafetyTransportation


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