Steamboat Springs The Meadows Parking Lot is where the rubber meets the road for the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
Sgt. Scott Middleton prefers that it happens there where things are controlled and safe rather than on the highways, dirt roads or parking lots in the Steamboat Springs area where a lack of training could result in anything from a fender bender in a local parking lot to an accident on the highways — or even a wrong decision in an emergency situation.
“We start with the close in stuff and kind of work to the high-speed emergency type maneuvers,” Middleton said while training a group of officers Tuesday afternoon.
Middleton spent 60 hours at the Denver Police Department’s Driver Instructor Class to get certified to train in Steamboat. His fellow Steamboat Springs Police Department officers now train twice a year — once in the spring, and once in the fall — to stay safe and accident free.
The officers complete a class session in the morning, and then head to the parking lot to get a first-hand experience in the different types of vehicle the department uses on the road.
Each year, the officers also attend the Bridgestone Winter Driving School to further improve their skills in the car. The department has held the refresher course on Tuesday the past two weeks, and all of the officers have taken part.
“We do it for our insurance underwriter,” Middleton said. “But it just makes sense that we review this stuff as much as possible.”
On Tuesday, the officers took turns in the city’s Dodge Charger and Ford Interceptor to complete a series of drills as quickly as possible without touching any of the orange cones that lined the pavement at the Meadows Parking Lot.
The officers had to navigate the cones that forced them to maneuver the car in tight quarters. In the field, touching the cone would mean an accident, but on this day, it cost the driver an additional five seconds on their overall time.
Other drills included the serpentine course where drivers display their competency in handling a vehicle while weaving in and out of a set series of cones.
There also was a high speed lane change, a 360-degree turn and a number of other obstacles designed to test the drivers' ability to control the vehicle in different situations both forwards and backwards.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966