Wednesday, October 20, 2010

PSP Citizen's Police Academy: Week 2

Driving Simulator

By Annette Dashofy

On week #2, we got our first hands-on experience of the class.

The computerized driving simulator is a fairly new piece of equipment. Ours was the first class to use it.

When I was in high school, back when dinosaurs walked the earth, our school was deemed extremely advanced and high tech because we had driving simulators. Let me tell you, they were nothing like this. Each CPA student got a turn behind the wheel and each got to experience a different scenario lasting about 10 minutes.

This gadget looked easy. Anyone who’s ever been in a video arcade (do they still call them that?) has played at driving race cars. But I can attest, it was NOT easy. The darned thing over-steers, and judging speed in the virtual world is tricky at best.

In one case, the computer provided a variety of distractions such as a nagging ringing cell phone. In another, it simulated driving while impaired. As in intoxicated. The car just refused to cooperate! Another student had to deal with an assortment of opportunities to avoid head-on collisions. That poor girl lost her rearview mirror, her front fender, and finally took a hit when a pickup truck swerved into her lane.

Yet another scenario involved learning to share the roads with commercial vehicles and pointed out the immense blind spots of tractor trailers.

All of the scenarios dealt with a variety of weather and driving conditions.

When it was my turn, I was given the task of driving a “safe distance” behind other vehicles. The computer voice instructed me to buckle up, put my foot on the brake, start the engine, shift into drive, look both ways, and pull out when safe. She also directed me to make turns at upcoming intersections. At each turn, I found myself behind another vehicle.

I never (okay, RARELY) tailgate, so I figured this would be simple. Not.

When I got too close, I received a verbal and visual warning. So I drove VERY SLOWLY. That was when Trooper Mungo pointed out to me that I could be ticketed for driving too slow, too. But every time I sped up, the blasted thing yammered at me that I was driving too close for conditions! Those conditions included rain, snow, and darkness.

At the end of each ten-minute simulation, the computer scored the driver on how many violations they’d had. My score wasn’t too shabby. I admit, I didn’t have the best one in the class…too many points for driving too slow…but at least I didn’t completely humiliate myself.

Next week, I’ve been told we’re having a test on Vehicle Codes. Test? I didn’t realize we’d be having tests when I signed up for this! Oh, well. Part two of next week’s class involves Crash Investigation.

I wonder…do the students who fail the test have to play the crash victims?


PatRemick said...

goThis sounds like so much fun! We didn't have the driving simulator at my Citizens Police Academy -- just the shooting scenarios simulator, which totally freaked me out!

Joyce said...

I might have to sign up for this next time around. I know I worked in a PD, but this sounds like a lot more fun!

Annette said...

Joyce, it was definitely fun. And surprisingly educational. Unlike a video game, this really does teach you stuff.

Pat, we're going to have the shooting scenario simulator, too. Stay tuned.

Janet Bolin said...

That driving simulator sounds positively demonic! But what fun. I'm soooo jealous!

Gina said...

Annette -
I am soooo jealous!

Cheryl Elaine Williams said...

So a good time was had by all, eh?

Cheryl Elaine Williams said...

So a good time was had by all, yes?

Kaye George said...

I did one of these at our academy in Austin. They made me do icy roads because I'm from "up north". I had to quit in the middle when I started feeling like I had to throw up! The front and side windows were a little out of sync and it made everyone dizzy. The instructor said I did a good job driving, though.

We had the shooting sims, too, Pat--loved it! But I didn't get to shoot the guy, just yell at him and aim at him. Badly.

Thanks for letting us in on your fun times, Annette!