Student drivers receive road lessons |

Student drivers receive road lessons

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Gordon quizzes students on basic rules of the road Tuesday morning during Mr. Chuck's Driving Academy class.
Dave Price |

A classroom full of driver’s education students at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center looked on enthusiastically Tuesday morning when Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Dan Gordon spoke about ratings for drivers.

Did anyone think they rated a 10 on a scale of 10? Gordon discussed those numbers with the spring break class presented by Mr. Chuck’s Driving Academy and sponsored by the Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department.

“I’ve been in this business over 20 years … I go to training every single year … I train every single year … and I’m only an 8-1/2,” added Gordon, a Carson Valley resident who serves as NHP’s Public Information Officer.

Kevin Moore, Zero Teen Fatalities Program manager, and Gordon were guest speakers during the week-long classes instructed by Chuck Ayers.

Gordon emphasized that driving requires a “huge learning curve.” To drive home that point, he described the difference between having a bad day as an athlete or musician and having a bad day in an automobile.

“If you have a bad day with your trombone, or whatever, what do you do? You put it away and come back to it tomorrow. What happens if you have a bad day in one of these?” Gordon said, holding up a set of car keys. “You die! Is that extreme? Absolutely! But if something bad can happen in a car, it will. I’m here to tell you, 20 years in this business, I have seen the worst of the worst. I have seen a very small mistake turn into fatalities.”

Can driving be fun? “Of course. It can be a lot of fun,” he added. “But it’s got to be done correctly.”

When Gordon listed eight primary rules of the road, he began with the importance of wearing seatbelts anywhere inside a vehicle and at all times, especially given that most accidents occur within five miles of someone’s destination or home. Wearing seatbelts increases chances of survival by over 50 percent, he informed the students.

“What happens to all the contents of a car in the event of a crash? It becomes a projectile, to include the human body,” he said. “So make sure you are wearing the seat belt correctly — slung over the top of your shoulder (not underneath), slung over your hips.”

Drivers also need to stay focused on the task at hand, including the practice of defensive and offensive driving, Gordon informed the students.

“Defensive driving is watching out for others; offensive driving is watching out for yourself,” he said. “It’s an attitude, a mindset. Do you control all the other people? No. But you have to watch out for them, right? You can control yourself. Your attitude when you get behind the wheel of a car must be, ‘I’m going to get from here to wherever I’m going safely. I’m driving the speed limit, I’m stopping at stop signs, I’m watching to stay in my lane, wearing my seatbelt, everything. You have to be able to control yourself.”

Gordon explained “two basic parts of the speed law.”

“First and foremost, No. 1 violated law in the State of Nevada, I’ll even say the world, when it comes to driving,” Gordon said.

For example, the speed limit on Highway 395 in the north Valley is 65 mph. “When can you go 65? Always?” he added.

One student answered: “When conditions are perfect.”

Correct answer. “Thank you! Give me an air high-five,” Gordon said. “Ideal conditions. Sunny. Warm. Very little traffic on the road. What about Friday at 5?

“So here’s the other part of the law. It’s what is referred to as the basic speed law. It says that you have the duty to decrease your speed under certain circumstances and conditions, such as traffic. What else? Weather. Snow. Sleet. Ice. Fog. I mean, what’s going to happen if you drive 65 mph and there’s 4 inches of snow on the ground?”

Gordon explained how lessons he learned from sports have carried over to help out in life. And on the road.

“My freshman year, my coach taught me one of the greatest, most valuable life lessons I ever got,” Gordon said. “I was shagging ground balls at shortstop and he came over and taught me the ‘What-if game.’ My coach said, ‘What if it’s a line drive? What if the batter lays down a bunt? And in about one minute, he gave me like 31 different scenarios. It’s great for sports, even better for life, especially when it comes to driving. What happens now is, I’m visualizing in my head and thinking, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do.’”