Simulator helps IMPD, emergency workers react on the road

An IMPD officer drives in one of the new simulators.

Emergency responders are about to take their training super high-tech, starting with IMPD officers.

Police say the new simulators - with life-like dangers - will help them respond to your reactions when they're reacting to emergency calls.

IMPD officers are about to start training in the simulators, which begin with a call from dispatch.

"Follow another unit to a burglary in progress to a commercial building," said Officer Jeff Horn.

Then Sgt. Ty Van Wagner responds to the burglary in progress.

"We got to balance going after a burglar with safety," said Lt. Fred Inicki.

As his boss, Inicki narrates some of the things officers have to maneuver around just to get to a scene.

"Now we have cars involved. So at each intersection, you have to look, because sometimes the traveling public, sometimes they will run the red lights, also," Inicki said.

That's exactly what prosecutors say happened on February 16, when 21-year-old Jade Hammer crashed into an ambulance killing two EMTs.

Inicki, a crash scene recreation expert, says eventually they will use the simulators to recreate crash scenes and learn from it.

"We start creating our own scenarios. We will be able to put in as many cars or bicyclists or pedestrians or whatever it is you want to put in there," Inicki said.

In all, IMPD has eight new simulators, with two mobile units on the way for training at different fire stations.

But even with life-like scenarios, how you respond to emergency vehicles is even more important.

In a recent real-life police chase, drivers had to get out of the way when two teenagers sped through streets to get away, before eventually crashing a stolen SUV. That same scenario can be recreated, adding in innocent drivers and their reactions.

"By law, they need to pull to the right and slow down and stop as soon as possible," said Van Wagner. "What if this emergency vehicle was coming to help you? How would you want other drivers to react?"

Eyewitness News Crimebeat Reporter Steve Jefferson tried the simulator, which was set to recreate a traffic stop.

"You are going to see a yellow motorcycle run a stop sign in front of you," Van Wagner said.

The simulator forces the driver to maneuver around a school bus and drivers at intersections, where they paid no attention to the cruiser's lights and sirens.

Police also showed other real-life scenes, like driving at night and snowy conditions.

"I just slid through that with my brakes on," Inicki said of one simulation.

In another simulation, Inicki loses control of his cruiser and strikes a utility pole.

"I over steered on that and the back end got loose and as I was accelerating, I was over steering and the back end got loose and just threw me into the telephone pole," he said.

The simulator even plays out damages to the cruiser like a shattered windshield.

Although simulation training is designed to give officers a better grip on their driving, police say what you do behind the wheel helps most.

"Looking for those lights, listening for the sound," Van Wagner said.

Computers tabulate each officer's driving skills, with hopes when they are in the real emergency, they'll remember their training.

Eventually, every IMPD officer and emergency vehicle driver will train in the new simulators, which are paid for with a grant. Police say one day they want to use the simulators at high schools to teach students better driving skills.