Troy Police offering CAT course

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hoping to deter motor vehicle accidents before they happen, Troy Police Department will be hosting Collision Avoidance Training class for teenage and beginner drivers Friday and Saturday.

Sgt. Mike O’Hara, an instructor with TPD, said after purchasing the rights to a national defensive driving program, the TPD as sought to customize it.

“The designers, Paul and his wife, started this in Florida because his son, on his 17th birthday, was involved in a car wreck that took his life,” O’Hara said. “His birthday was on Mother’s Day, so it really had a strong impact on the family. Because of all of this, Paul and his wife sought other people involved wrecks like this to put together to put together a program for collision avoidance training.”

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O’Hara said the course helps to drive home skills that take some drivers 10 to 15 years to develop.

“It’s simple things like not jerking the wheel from one side to the other quickly,” O’Hara said. “The way we teach the course is to try to go ahead and program their brain by playing a game called the ‘what if’ game. We teach them the skills they need and the physics of the car, how it reacts going around curves and stuff like that, because your brain doesn’t know the difference between what is really happening and what they’re making up in their heads.”

O’Hara said that the first day of the course, which will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, will be a lecture and geared toward teaching young drivers how the vehicle handles.

“We try to get them to understand that when you see things sliding across the dashboard while going around a curve, the stuff is still going in the same direction it was going to begin with but you’re essentially moving the car out from underneath it. We also talk about friction and stopping distances and how that can be affected by the environment.”

The next day will take students out of the classroom and onto a driving course for them to put the skills they learned about into action.

“The students will have to be able to use their mirrors and learn how to use their resources,” O’Hara said. “We try to teach them a quick maneuver move so that if a child were to come out in front of them, they can change lanes quickly, come back over and then come to a complete stop. We keep it in a controlled environment, but we try to let them experience what a situation would be like if they have to use what they learned in the course.”

One of the teaching techniques involves the driver being blindfolded, the instructor taking the wheel out of the driver’s hands and guiding the vehicle into the median. O’Hara said while that may seem like a dangerous situation, drivers would never go above 30 miles per hour.

“If you ask the kids that take the course, they’ll tell you they’re going 40 or 50 mph,” O’Hara said.

At the end of the course, drivers will receive a certificate of completion. O’Hara said the certificate does not guarantee a discount with many insurance providers, but he encouraged parents to inquire.

The course will be from 6 until 9 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday in the Troy Municipal Courtroom, which is on the floor below the Troy Police Department.

“I hope that these drivers take away a heightened sense of awareness of safety when they operate their vehicles,” O’Hara said. “This course is a great opportunity for young drivers to learn the skills that parents have learned through years of experience driving. These young drivers can learn these skills now and utilize these skills at an earlier age.”

The requirements for taking the course include a valid driver’s license, valid vehicle insurance and a $25 fee. While space is not limited, anyone wishing to take the class must call in advance and register.

Drivers may sign up by calling Troy Police Department at 566-0500 and asking for Sgt. Mike O’Hara or by sending a direct email to O’Hara at

But, those unable to take the course Friday and Saturday are not out of hope.

“If you can’t take the course, but are still interested, please still get in touch with me and we might be able to make more arrangements,” O’Hara said. “With the fall, we have to make sure we don’t conflict with football games on both Fridays and Saturdays. If anyone is still interested, we can always see about getting another course scheduled at a later date.”