County insurer provides driving simulator for law enforcement

Friday, February 23, 2018
Bliss-McKnight’s Mark Ennis, County Commissioner Paul Sinders, Mike Gunn of Bliss-McKnight, Sheriff Paul Harden, Kevin Ruhe and John Coughanowr of Coughanowr Insurance and County Commissioner Jim Bowman discuss the En-Mark Driving Simulator that will be used by the Clay County Sheriff’s Department.
Frank Phillips photo

It might look like a simulator used to train fighter pilots or astronauts, however Clay County Sheriff’s deputies will be using simulator training to become better drivers.

Starting on March 8 Clay County Sheriff’s deputies will be put through hundreds of simulated driving experiences where even the weather and time of day can be programmed to give drivers practice critical decision making skills in a risk-free environment. The training provides an innovative and proven driver’s training tool that addresses the major cause of vehicle incidents - poor decision making.

In addition to controlling the weather, the training experience can be customized from hundreds of scenarios consisting of traffic stops, pursuits, multiple vehicles, emergency responses, J-turns and skid pad training simulations.

Because the training simulations can be configured into hundreds of different simulations, the training is ever-changing, so it’s never boring. This increases driver learning.

In addition to the safety benefits for drivers and the public, techniques learned in simulator training can save time and money spent on lawsuits and ultimately save the county money which can be used to provide other services in the community.

Training is provided at no cost to the county through the county’s insurance carrier, Governmental Interinsurance Exchange, (GIE), through Bliss McKnight and Coughanowr Insurance. This training can help reduce accidents and injuries, time and money spent on lawsuits and because the training is simulated, county vehicles are spared wear and tear from behind-the-wheel training. This means less maintenance and vehicles last longer.

The company that distributes the En-Mark Driving Simulator is based in Bloomington.

The state requires law enforcement officers to receive two hours of training each year in emergency vehicle operation, Ennis said. The training must be under the supervision of a certified instructor like Ennis. There are certified instructors on the sheriff’s department.

“It’s very realistic,“ even though it’s not time spent behind the wheel, said Sheriff Paul Harden.

The simulator rental will cost Bliss-McKnight $5,000. None of that will be billed to the county or paid for directly by taxpayers. Bliss-McKnight and Coughanowr Insurance has covered both Clay County and the City of Brazil for many years, said Mark Gunn, who also represented the company on Friday.

Bliss-McKnight also provides a simulator to train officers on shoot/don’t shoot scenarios, Ennis said.

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