Driver education is pretty challenging in and of itself. Add snowstorms, freeways on an incline with snowstorms, Sundance, rural roads in various states of construction or repair, and you’ve just about have it all. Add to that some of the participants have never ridden a bike.
Kavin Goode has been teaching drivers’ education at Park City High School for about 25 years, training over 2400 drivers. With all the challenges facing him and his students, the worst damage to a training car was when a student backed into a light post.
But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some exciting times, complete with screams from the backseat-driver passengers, concerned about the way their fellow student is piloting the car.
Goode said he has a brake on his side of the car, but no steering wheel. If he has to, he will grab the steering wheel.
Goode, though, seems to take it all in stride as he talks about his job. Things have changed a lot from the days of one main stoplight in town, when he started teaching driver education.
He said Utah requires driver education students have 30 hours of classroom training and 12 hours in the car, six driving and six as passengers.
Kate Brenner, a junior at Park City High School, needs only to take her driving test to get her drivers license, and she can take it with Goode as a part of driver education. She started the training with Goode in June and says it has been different than she expected. "I was expecting it to be like a video game," she said, where one subtle touch of the steering wheel could send the car careening. She likes the predictable control of an actual automobile. She cites other differences from the fantasy world of video. "If you hit a car, it hurts more than a video also, she said, speaking of an accident she had been involved in years before.
Part-time driving instructor Jeff Dain said, "We can expose our kids to virtually anything in the Park City area." He related how on one outing, he and a student were traveling down Parley’s Canyon and the weather changed "within 100 feet from dry to a thunderstorm with a downpour that was like a wall of water."
As he talks, Goode is full of information and driving statistics. He spoke of how driving in snow has changed over the years. But he is quick to point out that "if the weather is dangerous for an experienced driver, I cancel the drive," he said. "Someone’s first skid should not be out on a road in traffic."
But he spoke of how technology has changed snow driving. "Anti-lock brakes have made the skid a whole different world."
Goode spoke of the importance of true snow tires as opposed to all-season tires. All-season tires give you 80 percent of the traction of snow tires. "Wouldn’t you rather have the 20 percent more?" he asked.
He said all-wheel drive cars work well if they are driven like a two-wheel drive car. He said that drivers may believe they can travel faster, and that’s when they run into trouble. He said that all-wheel drive cars and four-wheel drive cars are involved in more accidents, percentage wise, than two-wheel drive cars.
Among licensed drivers, he said his biggest concern is that many follow other car too closely.
Goode said that the students riding as passengers are generally supportive and empathetic with the student behind the wheel, but occasionally one will scream, or let out a yell, which he said is disconcerting to the driver, only compounding the problem leading to the outburst.
Dain spoke of his beginnings in drivers’ education 9 years ago. "My wife made me up my life insurance," he said, "and I don’t blame her."
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The Park City Police Department last week received reports of drivers struggling in a late-season snowstorm. The complaints were logged in various locations inside the city. The accidents did not appear to be serious.