The Dalton Police Department's Citizens Police Academy met Tuesday night for its sixth class, this time focusing on the Drug Unit and the Traffic Unit. As part of the night's program, participants got a chance to find out what it's like to drive under the influence of alcohol on "Fatal Vision", the department's drunk driving simulator program. If they had any doubts beforehand, after their spin through the cones participants had figured out driving impaired is a bad idea.
Detectives from the DPD Drug Unit opened the evening's program with a presentation about their efforts to curb the sale and use of illegal drugs in Dalton. The detectives, who aren't named here to protect their undercover status, discussed the way they investigate drug crimes and get dealers off of the streets. Each detective also described the different drugs seen frequently in Dalton, such as marijuana, meth, cocaine, crack, ecstasy, prescription meds and others. From the street value of each drug to their harmful side effects, detectives gave the Citizens Academy a crash course in narcotics and why they're dangerous.
Next, Officers Steve Zahn and Woody Cantrell from the Traffic Enforcement Unit (TEU) took the class across the street to the parking lot of the old Municipal Court building. There, they'd set up the traffic cone course for the "Fatal Vision" golf cart. "Fatal Vision" uses special goggles which simulate alcohol impairment, disorienting drivers enough to make them feel similar effects to drinking. While attempting to navigate the cone course, most drivers took out a lot of traffic cones along the way. That provoked a lot of laughter from fellow classmates, and also officers watching, but the message is a serious one: don't drink and drive. The consequences of driving a car while impaired are much too serious to take the risk.
Before heading back into the classroom at the Police Services Center, Officer Woody Cantrell also demonstrated a laser gun used in speed detection. Standing by Waugh Street, Officer Cantrell showed how the device is used and allowed several academy participants to try the device out on passing cars.
Once back inside the classroom, Officer Zahn discussed the different operations and educational efforts the TEU leads to make the roadways of Dalton more safe. In addition to Operation: Click It or Ticket and Operation: Zero Tolerance which are nationwide mobilizations targeting seat belt use and DUI, respectfully, the TEU also undertakes several mobilizations of its own.
One target that the TEU has been focused on since late 2011 is distracted driving. Most people know that texting while driving is now illegal in Georgia; it's also illegal for those under the age of 18 to talk on a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. However, many drivers don't understand that it's illegal to engage in ANY activity ... whether it's use of a cell phone, the radio, checking makeup, or even eating a sandwich ... that distracts a driver from the safe operation of their vehicle. Statistics compiled by the TEU show that since September 2011, there have been more crashes with injuries caused by a distracted driver in Dalton (23) than injury crashes caused by excessive speed or DUI combined (17). The TEU has added texting to the "Fatal Vision" program for students at Dalton High School, and is also working on other educational efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. The TEU is also working on enforcement of both the law against texting while driving and the law against distracted driving.
Click "Play" in the window below to see video from Tuesday night's meeting of the Citizens Police Academy. Click here to see a photo gallery from last night's session on the DPD Facebook page.