Collier County deputy driving course improves road safety

Wearing a badge means sometimes you have take out the bad guys on the road. Deputies in Missouri recently stopped a driver from seriously injuring Super Bowl fans gathering to celebrate the Kansas City Chiefs win a few weeks ago. But not every day behind the wheel is like that.

Law enforcement officers can also find themselves in traffic incidents themselves, so a sheriff in Southwest Florida designed a course to help deputies continue to always be alert, ready and improve all-around safety on the road.

Rich Kolko, WINK News Safety & Security Specialist, went on a drive recently to see how Collier County Sheriff’s Office is working to keep everyone safer on the road.

January 2011, a distracted Collier County deputy looking at his computer caused a three-car crash.

November 2017, another deputy who investigators say didn’t pay attention to a red light crashed into a car, sending two people to the hospital.

Those are just two examples that put deputies and drivers at risk.

“We had an increase in at-fault crashes, and the task was to find a way to reduce to the crashes,” said CCSO Lt. J.J. Carroll, the district commander and driving adviser.

So Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk decided to act, introducing a driving course to generate better training and safer roads.

“We put together a training program,” Rambosk said. “And it really looks at some distracted driving information and awareness.”

In Florida’s police academy, officers go through 48 hours of driving instruction to earn their badge. They aren’t required to brush up on their skills after that.

But, now, Sheriff Rambosk makes his deputies buckle up and complete the CCSO course.

“We try to go back to the basics for driving,” Rambosk said.

Sheriff Rambosk wants all deputies through the program in 16 months, and they are on schedule. After that, they will evaluate crash records, adjust the class and start over. The course involves sharp turns, backup drills, evasive action and hard braking.

Recently, Florida Sheriffs Association recognized Sheriff Rambosk for his work developing the course and for producing the largest percentage drop of crashes in the state.

(Center) Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk is recognized by Florida Sheriffs Association for the design of his deputy driving course and initiative to reduce deputy-involved traffic incidents, thus making roadways safer on the roads his deputies work to keep safe. Credit: Florida Sheriffs Association.

The sheriff’s office says, in 2018, there were 200 deputy-involved crashes. In 2019, after driving school started, those numbers dropped to 148.

And CCSO says its deputies collectively drive more than 9.5 million miles per year.

“The most important thing is we don’t have deputies getting hurt; we don’t have citizens getting hurt from crashes; and reducing the cost,” Rambosk said.

Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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