Va. Police Department Prioritizes Traffic Safety Training for Officers

Oct. 31, 2023
The Chesterfield County Police Department in Virginia is working to keep its officers safe by making driver training a priority.

The roadways continue to be a dangerous place for officers. In 2022, traffic-related fatalities accounted for 56 officer line-of-duty deaths, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Thirty of the deaths were attributed to crashes involving a collision with another vehicle or fixed object. During a quarterly traffic review held by the NLEOMF, Chesterfield County, Virginia, Police Capt. Peter Cimbal presented on his agency’s traffic safety program, which was recently named a winner of a 2023 Destination Zero National Officer Safety and Wellness award.

This article appeared in the September/October issue of OFFICER Magazine. Click Here to subscribe to OFFICER Magazine.

Patrol vehicles are the most utilized pieces of equipment provided to officers, yet most agencies don’t train annually for pursuit or precision driving, according to Cimbal. At the same time, those same agencies mandate firearms and defensive tactics training. The Chester County Police Department added annual driver training a little over five years ago. “I’ve been fortunate in my 25-plus years to never have had to discharge my service weapon,” he says. “Yet, I’ve responded hundreds of times in emergency driving situations and conditions without that required training.”

Cimbal himself was struck by a drunk driver this past New Year’s Eve while in his unmarked patrol vehicle. He was facing a head-on DUI driver traveling the wrong way in his lane. “The reason that crash was not as bad as it could have been was because of our crash avoidance training. I was able to get that vehicle moved just enough to offset the energy transfer in that collision and walked away from it.”

The Chester County Police Department conducts annual high speed and precision driver training on the agency’s 1.4-mile driving course, which allows vehicles to get up to speeds over 100 mph and presents various road surface conditions, stop lights, railroad crossings and different types of intersections. There are also different roadway surfaces including concrete, asphalt, gravel and dirt surfaces.

The department recently began providing SUV-specific training as it continues to transition to an all-utility vehicle fleet. “We’re teaching our officers about the differences in the center of gravity in these SUVs, which is different than it was in the sedans, along with the technology that you find in a lot of these all-wheel drive SUVs, which includes skid control and off-road recovery as well as visibility,” he says. “Our old square box vehicles that many of us used to have back in the 90s and into the early 2000s where you knew where the corners of your vehicles were, that’s all gone now with rounded edges and smaller windows. We’re doing a lot to try to teach officers to be aware of the size of their vehicle and where they are in relation to objects.”

The department also teaches visual collision avoidance at speeds of up to 60 mph. When an officer approaches a checkpoint, there’s an officer there with a three-lane indicator. They flip a chart and based on that visual chart, the officer driving the car has to make a determination of which cone travel lane to go into and whether to stop, proceed through, slow and use caution. The officer can’t make a decision of which lane to choose until they see the chart.

Being an agency that has lost officers due to crashes, we are always striving to keep our officers safe,” he says. “No amount of training can prevent all crashes, so we are constantly looking at how we can reduce these dangers.”

Watch the full NLEOMF quarterly traffic review session at

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