NOPD training course helps officers zone in on drunk drivers - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

NOPD training course helps officers zone in on drunk drivers

During a three-day training course, the police department employed the help of volunteers, providing a group with alcohol starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday. (FOX 8 Photo) During a three-day training course, the police department employed the help of volunteers, providing a group with alcohol starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday. (FOX 8 Photo)

If you've ever had a few drinks then hopped in your car to drive home, you may want to think twice about it. New Orleans police are training more officers how to spot drivers who are under the influence in an effort to reduce the high number of alcohol-related fatalities.

During a three-day training course, the police department employed the help of volunteers, providing a group with alcohol starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday. By 3 p.m., one woman  had a blood alcohol level over .10. The legal limit in Louisiana is .08 .

While conducting a mock field sobriety test on the woman, the officer notes, “She missed a step, she actually missed one of the steps.”

Had this been a real field sobriety test, she'd be going to jail.

NOPD Lt. Anthony Micheu explains, “We are seeing an abundance of drunk drivers on the street. We're currently at 900 for the year.”

Not all New Orleans police officers are trained on how to spot an impaired driver who may not be exhibiting the most obvious signs, which is why the training class is held about once a year. The department figures the best way to learn is with real life guinea pigs.

“We document and we measure every ounce of alcohol consumed by them,” Micheu explained.

Then the volunteers are put through a mock field sobriety test. The 24 officers in training are guided by their superiors as they execute a walk and turn test, the "horizontal gaze nystagmus" and others.

The crackdown on drunk drivers is more important now than ever as Louisiana's fatality rates climb. Beth Inbau, with the National Safety Council’s South Louisiana Chapter, says, “We're the second highest parish for alcohol-related crashes based on how many licensed drivers there are.”

The National Safety Council tracks the numbers. Inbau says the average across the country for fatalities blamed on drugs and alcohol is 35 to 40 percent. In Louisiana, that number stands at 44 percent.

Inbau applauds the NOPD's efforts to reduce the figure, saying increased visibility and education are key.

The officers who graduated from the training class this week are participating in a DUI checkpoint Wednesday night. The area with the highest number of alcohol-related crashes in Louisiana is Calcasieu Parish.

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