Nebraska Trains Police to Spot Drunk Drivers – Using Real Drunk People
The first line of defense against drunk drivers is the police officer who stops them on the road. It’s up to the officer to determine whether or not the person behind the wheel is a danger to others. And that takes training.
And the training takes drunks. In Omaha, Nebraska police train at what is called a Wet Lab – a facility where volunteers drink alcohol and submit to sobriety tests in order to train officers to recognize and evaluate impaired drivers.
The volunteers, who are not exactly scarce or reluctant, are recruited from the Douglas County Attorney’s Office. Over a period of three hours the volunteer drink beer and shots, and are presented to recruits to see what they do.
First, the rookies are asked if they think the person in question is fit to drive. Then a breathalyzer test is performed, and the results either confirm or contradict the recruit’s impression. In this way, the young officers learn to sharpen their instincts so they don’t accidentally let an impaired driver go free.
All Nebraska law enforcement personnel must go through this training. That’s not surprising, in that Nebraska is what Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has termed a five-star-state. It has put in place all the measures that the organization deems necessary for a state to effectively fight drunk driving:
- Ignition interlocks (car breathalyzers) for all DUI offenders
- Sobriety Checkpoints
- Automatic licence revocation for those arrested for DUI
- Child endangerment laws for those who drive impaired with minors
- No refusal of BAC testing allowed
The volunteers are driven home (of course) and asked to sign statements pledging not to drive for 12 hours. Because the idea of the Wet Lab is to take drunk drivers off the road, not put more of them on.