Students at Dawson County High School have been able to practice driving without leaving the classroom this fall thanks to a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
The school used a $130,000 grant from the state to buy five vehicle simulators and expand its driver’s education course. Prior to the grant the school did not have any of the simulators.
The grant money also helped the school add paraprofessional staff to guide the students on the simulators, which let them practice driving in various conditions.
“The simulators are very realistic and accurate,” said Chess Hamby, a driving instructor at the school. “They walk a student through all the correct procedures when driving.”
The grant has allowed the high school to increase the number of students in the course.
Hamby said two students can practice driving on the road every class period, and four to five students can train on the simulators.
“Every student in the driver’s ed program gets in about two hours a week,” Hamby said. “Hopefully, we help the roads in Dawson County become a little safer.”
There have been nine fatalities, including two teenagers, on Dawson County roads in 2008.
Students can make routine mistakes on simulators instead of on the road.
“It’s almost like reality,” said Ashley Atkinson, a student planning to get her license in December. “It teaches all the rules needed in real-life driving.”
Her classmate Sarah Bell plans to get her license in June.
“It is definitely good practice,” Bell said. “It’s like learning to drive on a video game.”
Hamby said the instructors have noticed improvement in student drivers since the simulators arrived at the beginning of the school year.
“We are very thankful to the state for making this possible,” he said.