Drunk volunteers help Mercer Co. police train for sobriety testing

In the past five years, there have been 582 alcohol-related crashes in Mercer County

JEFFERSON TWP., Pa. (WYTV) – Police from five different departments in Mercer County went through training Wednesday to learn how to recognize drunk driving and conduct sobriety tests.

In the past five years, there have been 582 alcohol-related crashes in the county. The training will prepare local police so they can better prevent these accidents from happening.

Seven volunteers helped out by drinking and then interacting with officers. Organizers made sure things didn’t get out of hand, but the 19 trainees had to figure out how drunk each volunteer was.

Officers tested them by watching eye movement, and having them walk in a straight line and stand on one leg for 30 seconds.

The three tests are just part of what the trainees had to master to become certified in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. The rest of the training wasn’t as cut and dry.

“People don’t pass or fail field sobriety tests, that’s not how it works. People exhibit clues, they exhibit one of the validated clues and then we also make observations,” said Craig Amos with Pennsylvania State Police.

Paying attention to how impaired a person is starts right after they are pulled over. Officers watch the driver’s eye movement and how they get their license and registration while answering questions.

Jefferson Township Officer Russell Chace says he has made over 50 DUI arrests in six years on the job, but this was his first real, in-depth training session.

“We do field sobriety in the police academy, which they don’t go too in-depth with,” he said. “We’ve learned more on divided attention tests for this class. We’ve also learned different interview tactics for DUIs and I think that will help me for the future with DUIs.”

Jefferson Township Police Chief Jeffery Lockard organized the training and wants it to be mandatory for all officers.

“It gets them to the point where they start understanding things. I think it makes it safer for the community they work in and for the officer who’s involved, for what he has to do for his job,” Lockard said.

Some people are also confused about how the breathalyzer process works. If a driver refuses to take the test, their license is automatically suspended.

When the driver goes to court, the officer who pulled them over will tell the jury the sobriety test results and say they refused the breathalyzer. Then it is up to the jury whether or not the driver is charged with DUI.

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