By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
A government-funded training program made a stop in Gainesville this week as part of a tour conducted by Texas Association of Counties (TAC).
The program came in the form of a giant TAC-themed trailer that included simulators for law enforcement and truckers — all designed to reinforce driving skills among employees who drive county-insured vehicles and equipment.
“We always try to train our employees,” said Pct. 2 Commissioner Leon Klement. “It’s good for public safety and it’s good for the county, and it’s good for our insurance.”
In the coming days, county commissioners and other department members will engage in two-hour defensive driving courses that include simulation time.
“It’s not mandatory, but we sure encourage them to attend,” County Fire Marshal Ray Fletcher said Thursday, adding later that reckless driving isn’t a problem among Cooke County staff. “Most of our employees, fortunately, are a little older and wiser. But we do always want to encourage and reinforce that as a responder, a first responder, if you don’t get there, you didn’t do anybody any good.”
Simulator specialist Don Courtney explained in a release that the TAC program creates real-world driving conditions that replicate scenarios that law enforcement officers or county maintenance drivers may actually enounter when on the road.
Courtney added that the TAC simulator program, now 13 years in use, has trained nearly 6,500 county employees through Texas, and all for the better.
“Studies have shown that driver-training programs effectively reduce risks while educating drivers on safe-driving measures,” Courtney said. “Even professional drivers can slip into bad habits behind the wheel. The simulator training reinforces good driving habits that help improve employee safety and make them better prepared for the unexpected.”
The TAC program is funded by county insurance payments, and the simulation trailer itself costs around $300,000. Pct. 3 Commissioner Al Smith explained Thursday that the cost of the driving program is shared among the counties who are involved with TAC, which is nearly all those in Texas.
But the simulation trailer, he added, has more than paid for itself through the major reduction in accidents — and their expenses — observed throughout the state among county employees in recent years.
“What we’re able to do with the simulator is put people in situations that probably won’t ever happen to them on the road,” Smith said. “But it raises the awareness of what we need to be thinking about.”