Volunteers get drunk to help train midstate police

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Nov 12, 2013 12:11 PM

(Hampden Township) -- A drunk driving simulation in Cumberland County didn't happen on the roads, and it didn't involve a video game either.

It started with about 10 volunteers sitting in a small classroom, drinking their alcohol of choice for hours, and making a lot of noise.

Then, they blew into a breathalyzer. 

It all allows police officers from the region to receive training on field sobriety tests.

Todd Lindsay, a deputy chief for Cumberland County's DUI Task Force, says before officers run the volunteers through the tests, they ask a simple question.

"Would you drive right now, and get an idea from them if they say yes or no, before we tell them what their blood alcohol level is. A lot of these people say no I wouldn't drive and their alcohol level is below the legal amount, the .08% in Pennsylvania."

Lindsay says it's a learning process for the officers.

"Driving is a divided attention task. You have to do multiple things while driving. These tests that we give them are very simple but you are dividing their attention. You're telling them instructions and you're also demonstrating what they're doing. So they have to listen to what you're saying and see what you're doing."

He says it's important to standardize the instructions given on tests like the heel to toe walk -- so the results are admissible in court.

Cumberland County usually runs the simulation two times a year, but held three classes this year because of high demand.

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