Kendall County drivers train for real-world conditions

By Candace Velvin, Managing Editor The Boerne Star | 0 comments

Through a Texas Association of Counties (TAC) program to reduce highway collisions, 36 Kendall County Road and Bridge Department drivers got some special training this week with an innovative driving simulator.

The driving simulator offers professional county drivers the opportunity to experience real-world driving conditions in a high-tech environment that replicates situations drivers may actually encounter while on the road. Studies have shown that driver-training programs effectively reduce risks while educating drivers on safe-driving measures.

“My goal is to use the driving simulator to reduce cost to the county by reducing collisions and injuries to county drivers,” said Don Courtney, driving simulator specialist with TAC.

Since the TAC program began in 2000, the simulator itself had logged more than 60,000 miles traveling across the state in a colorful trailer rig. According to Courtney, more than 6,000 county drivers in 225 Texas counties have trained with the simulator. Through the TAC, the training is free.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to take advantage of this training,” Road Superintendent Ricky Pfeiffer said. “Don’s a pretty popular guy.”

Pfeiffer said Kendall County has regular training for drivers, who represent all ages and years of experience, and it has helped keep the department’s safety record high. The training sessions were held this week at the Road and Bridge facility in Comfort.

The equipment can simulate every kind of truck from a pick-up or car to dump trucks and 18-wheelers. The large truck simulator includes a driver’s seat with seatbelt in a compartment that simulates road noise. As the simulation progresses, the driver can feel the motion in the seat, even a little jolt once in a while when hitting a virtual rock. However – the virtual windshield is never cracked.

Through the windshield, drivers experience various hazardous road conditions, including fog, rain, snow and even dust clouds.

Courtney observes and evaluates each driver through a 30-minute training simulation.

“Drivers tend to slip into old habits behind the wheel,” Courtney said. “From the very beginning, I can tell whether they are used to driving with a seat belt on. I can tell if they steer the wheel one handed or two handed, whether they use their signals and mirrors.”

In addition to watching the driver as he sits in the cab, Courtney has a simulator that gives him a view of the driver’s virtual truck as it travels through the course. Through a second simulator, another driver can interact with the truck driver from the seat of a virtual car.

Pfeiffer said he was impressed with the simulator equipment.

“From now on, every time they step into a truck, they’ll remember something from this,” he said.

The TAC program has a law enforcement component Courtney said is scheduled to come to Kendall County next year.


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