By Glenn Cramer

DETECTING IMPAIRED DRIVERS IS difficult and obtaining a conviction in an impaired driving case can also be challenging. Impaired driving laws are complex, as is collecting the evidence needed to define and demonstrate impairment.

Four years ago, the Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) did a self-assessment of the basic impaired driving enforcement training provided to their cadets. They found behavioral and skill gaps between the knowledge of impaired driving enforcement and the real-world application of enforcement. Old-fashioned “chalk-and-talk” classes where an instructor interacts with the students in one direction with an array of slides were not effective. To help close the performance gap, the MHP completed an analysis of the best types of training methodology for personnel to learn, retain, and execute impaired driving enforcement.

This analysis highlighted a realistic scenario-based training model used by the Idaho State Police (ISP). MHP adopted the ISP model and added training elements to enhance it for their purpose. In a two-day training session offered this past August, MHP cadets practiced stopping suspected traffic violators on the agency’s driver training course. A volunteer drinker who had been dosed to a specific breath alcohol content (BAC) would sit behind the steering wheel of a stopped vehicle for the cadet to begin the impaired driving investigation.

Each cadet would make six impaired driving arrests during the training session. One of the arrests included a scenario of the suspected driver refusing to provide a breath sample, during which the cadet would practice completing an affidavit for a telephonic search warrant. If a search warrant was authorized, an actual blood sample was taken from the volunteer suspected driver by an instructor trained as a forensic phlebotomist to help cadets learn the proper procedure for packaging blood evidence.

The training ended with the cadet interviewing the suspected driver and completing the alcohol/drug influence report form, followed by the completion of an impaired driving case report. One case report from each cadet was selected by a prosecutor for a mock trial. The attention to detail in the scenario-based training is impressive and it helps fill the gaps between classroom training and real-world application of skills. Scenario-based training is often more enjoyable for participants and creates a positive environment where students can learn from their mistakes.

For more information about this training, contact Sergeant Kurt Sager, Montana Highway Patrol, at ksager@mt.gov or (406) 444-9873.

Glenn Cramer is the NHTSA Region 10 Law Enforcement Liaison

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of The LEL.