I had an interesting experience today with one of our students. In our Defensive Driving Course there is a segment on impaired driving. The simulator reacts slowly or over reacts to driver input and it is as close to driving while drunk as you can get without being loaded.
This young girl is a high achiever, she wins in everything. She was struggling with the lesson, getting frustrated. On the driving simulator, if you crash or make a serious violation you have to go back and start over. Her frustration level built to the point where she started to cry. I pulled her off the machine and told her to calm down. I told her, she was in a situation where there is no winning or losing. Its specialized training and the lesson was designed and programmed to teach her the futility of attempting to drive while impaired not to teach her a way to do it successfully.
Her frustration with driving is she can't be the best right now. We went back and forth on her frustration, I finally asked her how long she had been playing the violin? 11 years was her answer. I asked how much time she had behind the wheel or in training? Her answer was about 20 hours. Okay, how well could you play the violin after 20 hours? She lightened up and said, "Not very well." I asked, did you know how to hold the violin? "Uh huh." I continued, could you make it through a simple song? "Uh huh." I continued in this vain for awhile and she finally brightened. "You mean, I just need to practice more, right?" Right!
Another student is headed to Barnard this fall. She has been hesitant to even start driving. This is another high achiever who know she needs to get her driver's license. She's been doing really well and is now even better once we set a lofty goal for her. It's pretty simple, too. She is going to drive well enough that her Dad will let her drive his Porsche 911, something her Mom doesn't get to do.
Something I've learned about these kids is a one size fits all approach doesn't work. Each one is an individual and we do our best to customize and personalize our work with them. We get a big technology assist from the simulators and the sims tell us about the student's strengths and weaknesses, but if we don't spend some time with them, we can't know how to put all the information into practice and we can't find the key into making them into safe, confident drivers.
The boys on the other hand don't have the focus the young women do and honest to god, they act and look so much younger. But, there is something about the way the VDI programs are written and structured that challenges them. Once they learn it's not a video game and they can't force the sim to do what they think it should do...they just give up and go with it. Once they hit that point they score as well or better than the girls do.
We have one somewhat shy, big tall kid who after about the 4th lesson on the simulator stopped over thinking everything and now is racking up scores on the 25 minute assessment drives that haven't dropped lower than a 96 out of a possible 100 for the past 6 lessons. He really thinks he is hot.
This is a very satisfying thing to do. We have now driving behind the wheel a young man who has had 17 operations. He has no use of his right arm (he was born right handed) and minimal use of his right leg, he can walk but he can't use an accelerator or a brake. We found a portable left foot gas pedal, put an old fashioned "necker knob" on the car and he is driving and really doing well. He will soon be taking his test and he'll have a license to drive. He was determined to get it, his family didn't think he could nor did his therapist. He told me the other day, "I'll be free, I can get to school on my own, go where ever the hell I want, even if there is no bus to get there on."
To me, that kid is living proof people can damn near do anything if they put their mind to it. We taught him how to drive, but he did the work!