Improve driver training and help save lives

Five years ago, a same-day sinus surgery turned into a disaster.

Four days later, a seizure was followed by six weeks in three different hospitals, and doctors said I had permanent brain damage. I later discovered that during those six weeks, I had been given over 52 different drugs. Fortunately, my wife and friends brought me home to a real doctor.

After two weeks, my oldest memory came back. After two months, I felt competent to drive, but I decided not to until I reported the seizure to DMV and took behind-the-wheel driver training.

I engaged in in-depth research for a tool to improve my driving skills, reduce my risks, and give back my former self-confidence in driving.

My research paid off: On Sept. 11, 2003, Western Nevada Community College provided the location and support necessary for Systems Technology Inc., to demonstrate their STISIM DriveƓ driving simulator to attendees from public safety, insurance, risk management, news media, and education.

It was agreed that better driver education could eliminate the need for a patrolman making that condolence call informing the family of the death of their loved one, killed in a traffic accident.

Civil aviation, medicine and military have turned to modern technology simulators to address training issues - effective, common-sense safety methodology.

Simulators use no fuel and challenge the student with a wide variety of circumstances and conditions. Simulators allow students to learn from mistakes and run the events again until they get it right, without risk of lives, property damage or cost.

Simulators are forgiving. Live events offer no forgiveness.

The vast majority of driver training classes including AARP 55 Alive and Drive, are based on classroom training and passing a written test. Sending drivers on the road is like sending troops into combat armed with classroom training. We're doing the same with our loved ones for driver training.

Although novice drivers, accompanied by a parent or guardian, may experience 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training, we assume (or rather hope) that in those 50 hours, students will gain the experience needed to deal with the wide variety of conditions and emergency situations that we as adult drivers with years of experience take for granted.

In all honesty, what sane parent will allow their teenager to practice high-speed braking, collision avoidance, truck-passing with oncoming traffic or heavy traffic maneuvering while sitting in the passenger seat?

In May 2004, initial driving simulator software funding was provided by Nevada Public Agency Insurance Pool. Later funding was provided by State Farm Insurance and Nevada Office of Traffic Safety.

In the past year, using simulator technology, WNCC initiated the New Driver Education Program. With over 170 graduates of this program, I believe their driving records will be improved in comparison to those who did not take the simulator training.

Classroom instruction, combined with driver simulator training has been very successful.

The WNCC program encourages and improves individual safe-driving skills modeled to use the forgiveness of simulators for training. This is in addition to all other forms of training, including the required time behind the wheel of a real car. The simulator is an opportunity for all drivers to undergo 'refresher' training.

The WNCC Driver Education Lab is equipped with 24 sets of: computers, steering wheels/brakes/accelerators. Training will continue throughout summer. Students interested in registering may call 445-4458.

My wife believes divine intervention impelled my recovery in bringing this project to fruition. I believe she is right and I believe your prayers can play a big part.

A laptop computer equipped with the Novice and DUI (driving under the influence) driving simulator is available for your review. I invite your comments and suggestions. I am not a lobbyist, salesman, attorney or opportunist, feel free to call or e-mail at any time.

n Ron Kendall, a Carson City resident, can be reached by e-mail at


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