Citizen Academy Teaches Importance of Seat Belts | Crime
Mia Carlson, LC Valley radio news director, has been attending citizen academy with Lewiston Police Academy. She shares her experiences.
The Case for Seat Belts
As a journalist, covering tragic stories is not always easy. We are expected to provide the who, what, where, when, why, and how, and leave our emotion out of it. Privately, though, I have shed many tears, especially over the five traffic fatalities in the Lewiston area last year, the most in the state. With every single tragedy, I had friends or family in common with the victims and their families.
Week four of the Lewiston Police Department's 19th Annual Citizen Police Academy centered on the department's Selective Traffic Enforcement Program, along with engineering, education, and enforcement in law enforcement's attempt to reduce accidents. The department does "high visibility enforcement" in areas that are known to involve significantly more traffic accidents and driving infractions.
Sgt. Ted Piche' stressed that seat belt laws do save lives and the picture of an outline of a person's face in a shattered windshield helped to drive that point home for the class.
Lewiston has a seat belt compliance rate of 87%, even though the State of Idaho has the third worst seat belt law in the nation. Not wearing a seat belt is a secondary offense and carries a fine of only $10. Washington State, meanwhile, enforces its seat belt law as a primary offense and the fine is $124. Piche' says it not unheard of for an officer to see a driver cross into Idaho from Washington and unlatch their seat belt.
One of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen in my 46 years was a victim impact statement video from Michelle Norton Spicer.
In 1998, her teenage boys were killed in an accident in which a Cumberland County Sheriff's cruiser on its way to a domestic call collided with her car. The journalist in me allowed me to hide my emotions to the class, but the mother in me was sobbing as I watched Michelle describe her children, the accident, and the subsequent hours. The room was silent and still as all eyes focused on the sad story.
Michelle, along with John, 18, and Matthew, 25, were returning to the family's lakeside cabin in Maine on July 8, 1998 after going out to dinner. John was driving, making a left hand turn, when the speeding patrol car hit them from behind at 86 miles per hour. The female deputy had been responding to a report of an out-of-control 6-year-old.
Michelle made the video, which is distributed to police agencies throughout the country by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in an effort to remind officers to use due diligence when responding to emergency calls. Sgt. Ted Piche’ explained to the class that LPD has a strict pursuit policy for officers that weighs the risks involved when in pursuit.
Driving Under the Influence
The second part of the class focused on enforcement of Driving Under the Influence cases. Corporal Jason Leavitt explained that there are five elements of DUI Enforcement:
- Vehicle in Motion
- Personal Contact
- Pre-Arrest Screening
- Blood/Breath Alcohol Testing (BAC)
- Administrative License Suspension
"We don't try to trick people," Leavitt said adding the standardized testing is very clear and concise and all individuals get the same test nationwide.
The Field Sobriety Test includes:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
- Walk and Turn Test
- One Leg Stand Test
If the individual has enough indicators, they will be arrested for Driving Under the Influence and taken to the Nez Perce County Jail for BAC testing. One thing that most people don't realize, according to Leavitt, is that by signing your driver's license you are consenting to test for drugs and alcohol. If a person refuses the test, their license will be suspended for one year regardless of what happens in their criminal case.
The average cost of a first-time DUI in Idaho is $16,000 with fines, fees, increased insurance costs. About 16,000 people die every year in the U.S. in an alcohol related accident. And Corporal Leavitt says he does this job because of the #1. "If I can save one person, then it's all been worth it."
The class ended with a few of my classmates trying on some "beer goggles" and attempting to do the Walk and Turn Test. The goggles mimic what being legally drunk (.08 BAC) feels like.
Next week's class will cover Criminal Investigations and Crime Scenes.
About the Author: Mia Carlson is the news director for KZBG "Big Country" 97.7 and KZID "K-Hits" 98.5. She's based out of Clarkston, but broadcasts to the entire LC Valley. You can contact her through Facebook.
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