Quentin Burdick Job Corps Center students are getting some behind the wheel experience this week without actually having to get behind the wheel.
"The only thing it doesn't do is give you the feel of a real car," said Trey Sartwell, 19, from Parshall, one of the students who has been practicing with a driving simulator on loan from the AAA Keys2 Drive program.
Renee Escherich, student government coordinator, said the use of the driving simulator is free. Escherich contacted the AAA office in Fargo and arranged to pick up the simulator in Bismarck. She said it was easy to hook up. Schools all over North Dakota have used it in driver education programs but the Job Corps has had the use of it a bit longer than usual. So far about 35 students, all of whom have
Quentin Burdick Job Corps Center student Maurice Lige Jr., 18, uses a driver simulator on Tuesday.
recently gotten their learner's permits and are in need of behind the wheel practice, have tried out the simulator.
Escherich said the Job Corps students would normally take behind the wheel instruction through the Minot Public Schools, using the school district's car, but a car accident last month put that car out of commission for a few weeks. The driver simulator is a good substitute in the meantime.
The driver simulator gives students driving practice in a city setting, in the suburbs and on the freeway. It also has a program that lets them see what it would be like to drive while impaired or distracted by text-messaging. During the drunk driving scenario, if a student loses control and crashes, the screen goes red and the student is taken through what happens next: being stopped by the police, being placed under arrest, being taken to jail and going through booking, going before the judge for sentencing and then losing out on a job opportunity when he has the DUI on his record.
Some scenarios end with the driver being injured and being air-lifted to a hospital in a helicopter. The simulation makes the helicopter or the jail setting feel quite real.
Escherich and test administrator Diana Shackelford said they think the simulation makes some of the students think hard about what could happen if they text a friend while they're behind the wheel or drive drunk. Some Job Corps students have already had some difficulties with the court system and don't want to go back, while the simulation makes others see just how costly a DUI conviction could be in terms of fines, insurance costs and the length of time the conviction remains on their record.
Some of the students have been driving since they were quite young but have never had a license. Even students who know how to drive have to learn some of the differences in the rules of the road between North Dakota and other states.
Jessica Byrd-Farr, 23, who has had a license before but doesn't hold a North Dakota license, said the speed limit on highways are different in North Dakota compared with some of the other places she's lived. Big city driving requires drivers to be fast but cautious, she said. Some of the students said they haven't driven on snowy roads yet. Icy roads in North Dakota are a bit different from the wet slush that students might be used to in other states.
Students said practicing with the simulator will make them better drivers when they do get behind the wheel, since they've had a chance to make their mistakes with the simulator.
Escherich and Shackelford said they will have to give the simulator back soon but they would like to borrow it again and have it at the center a few times each year.