CLOVER — Fifteen-year-old John Price is learning to be a safer motorist in a Clover High School drivers ed class. And hes able to practice without facing the potential dangers of the road.
Price, a Clover High sophomore, works on turning, changing lanes, checking the blind spot and other beginning driver skills on one of 20 new computerized driving simulators used by the class.
It helps a lot, Price said of his practice on the driving simulator. Im turning, merging, changing lanes. You have to pay attention to pretty much everything it tells you.
The new simulators are programmed to provide a range of lessons that begin with basics like dashboard controls, move on with techniques like passing and braking and end with more advanced driving techniques like driving at night or in snowy or rainy weather and navigating different types of traffic. They have three screens, that feature both front and side views for the driver.
Every lesson has an assessment of the drivers performance, said drivers ed instructor Robbie Wiggins, who teaches the class with a second instructor, Doug Collins. Drivers must satisfactorily complete each driving lesson before they move on to the next one, he said.
Here, you get a chance, Wiggins said, referring to the opportunity for students to learn from their driving mistakes without the danger of an accident. On the road, you dont get a chance.
Wiggins said the 20 new driving simulators replace 12 older simulators that dated to the late 1980s. The older driving simulators did not include individualized lessons or performance assessments, he said.
Every student watched the same (driving) movie at the same time, and no matter how well they were doing, they all went at the same pace, Wiggins said about the older simulators.
The new simulators keep a record of each students performance, Wiggins said, so with each new class, a student can begin lessons where they left off in the previous class.
During the simulator experience, students wear ear muffs that give directions and also include sound effects the starting of an engine and the sound of acceleration, for example, or the squeak of windshield wipers in the rain.
The simulators also can be set for different weather or traffic situations.
Jacob Jones, 15, said he appreciates the driving experience he gets using a simulator. If you mess up, its not a big deal, so you get to practice, said Jones.
Wiggins said the during the nine-week class, all students receive 30 hours of classroom driving instruction, 12 hours of driving simulator practice and three hours of driving instruction on the road.
The driving simulators allow the drivers ed program to enroll 240 students a year, Wiggins said. Without simulators, he said, the class formula calls for 30 hours of classroom learning and six hours of actual driving, but the program could only enroll 144 students a year.
Wiggins noted that students who complete the class earn a discount on their auto insurance until age 25.
Ken Love, assistant superintendent for business services, said the simulators cost $165,000, or about $8,250 each. He said they were purchased with money set aside for capital improvements.
Clover High School Principal Marc Hopkins said he appreciates the Clover school districts support of the drivers ed program offered to students at no cost especially in an era when many school districts have cut the program altogether or charge a fee for students to enroll in it.
Miranda Wray, 15, said some students find using the simulators frustrating. For example, she said, if students miss a step, or make a mistake, the program stops and starts over.
I do better driving than on the simulators, she said. However, Ive learned that you have to look into your blind spots more, she said. You need to pay attention to those blind spots.