Arcade-like driving simulator prepares Loring students for the road

14 years ago

By Natalie Bazinet
Staff Writer

LIMESTONE — What looks like an arcade game, drives like a sedan and has been helping students at the Loring Job Corps Center (LJC) hone their driving skills? It’s the new Virtual Driver Interactive, or driving simulator, that’s recently became available at the center, and it’s quite the educational tool.

bs-loring-dc-ar-33Loring Job Corp student experiences realistic driving on simulator.

Francis Hayes, 17, of Providence, R.I. will take his permit test in two days but thanks to the simulator, he’s had some practice driving down some virtual streets. The simulator may look like it was just rolled out of the arcade, but Hayes and his classmates agree that it’s a helpful tool in learning how to drive.

“It’s tricky because the wheel is really sensitive and you have to drive correctly or it starts you over from the beginning,” Hayes said. Similar to a video game, should the driver commit a traffic violation at any point of the scenario, the computer explains what the student did wrong and starts them over at the beginning of the virtual driving course.

With three screens offering a clear view out of what would be the front windshield and the side mirrors, students drive their way through a pre-determined route and are directionally prompted vocally in a way reminiscent of the turn-by-turn directions offered by a vehicular GPS. The simulator can even turn hazardous weather conditions into a practice situation so that students could have theoretically slid across black ice a dozen times before they ever face a January road in Aroostook County. It may be August, but Hayes was able to practice driving on snowy streets last Friday in all of its windshield wiping, icy sliding conditions.

The simulator allows the students an opportunity to put into practice what they’ve learned in class and provides more hands-on time than students would typically be offered. In order to get their permit and their license, LJC students have a set number of hours they need to log with a driving instructor; while simulator time doesn’t count toward reaching their hours, students done mind going the extra miles for their licenses.

“The simulator vehicle is harder to drive than a real car, but if you can master the simulator then it’s really easy driving a real car,” said Miguel Torres, 17 of Bridgeport, Conn. Torres takes his permit test on Aug. 20 and had his first driving experience last Friday with an LJC instructor. While any first time on the road can be stressful, Torres noted that his time spent utilizing the simulator made for a driving afternoon that was easy on the nerves.

Not only in the simulator expected to help students obtain their permits and licenses, all the practice hours in the world won’t contribute to extra gasoline prices or vehicular wear-and-tear.

Since the drivers’ education program began approximately five years ago, over 400 students have made “the wall of fame” at the LJC by obtaining their licenses; their photos are proudly displayed in the building’s entryway by drivers’ education instructors Alma Tibbetts and Ed Lower.