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State Troopers Go Through Rigorous Training To Prepare For High-Speed Pursuits

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RALEIGH — Trooper John Duncandied while chasing a suspect in a high-speed chase. Some question the practice of high-speed pursuit, but the fact is sometimes it is necessary. TheNorth Carolina Highway Patroldoes all it can to train troopers for high-speed driving.

Concentration, skill and training are all needed when curves come at more than 80 miles an hour and a state trooper is in pursuit of a suspect.

"As part of our business, we drive cars under extraordinary circumstances," says Sgt. Jeff Winstead of the state Highway Patrol.

Troopers train for pursuit driving at a special high-speed track in Raleigh. They wear helmets, and cars are equipped with roll bars and five-point seat harnesses. However, on the highway, troopers do not have those safety measures.

"High speed is the most dangerous thing we teach because the person in the right seat has no control other than what we tell them. As long as they listen, everything goes really smooth," says instructor Robert Thaxton.

All troopers must undergo the training before graduation, and they get refresher courses.

"When you go out and practice, you get comfortable, or as comfortable as you possibly can, at high speeds. It makes you a much better officer and a much safer officer," says trooper Tommy Perry.

When a decision is made to pursue a suspect, troopers must push themselves and their cars to the limit.

"Society makes many demands and part of that, of course, is to capture criminals, take them to the courthouse and put them in front of a jury of their peers," Winstead says. "We don't enjoy the chase side of it at all. We're in harm's way, and the public is in harm's way."

High-speed pursuit is not a choice Troopers make. More and more often criminals are making the decision.

"It would be nice if people would pay heed to a blue light, a siren, to law enforcement officers. But in this society we live in, we don't always do that," Perry says.

The State Highway Patrol has announced it is getting 100 new Camaros. They will be equipped with roll cages and should be more suited to high-speed pursuit that the sedans that are now in use.


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