KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Suzy Han, 18, a Kaiserslautern high school senior, hasn't killed a "virtual" deer in weeks while using the driving simulator during her driver education class.

Han and 14 of her fellow classmates graduated Feb. 12 from the first driver theory education class sponsored by Installation Management Command-Europe Child Youth and School Services, the Department of Defense Dependent Schools-Europe and U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.

IMCOM-Europe CYSS and the Department of Defense Dependent Schools-Europe partnered to begin offering European-based high school students the driver education theory classes recently at nine Europe garrisons.

"This course gives students background information, experience and a little bit of what to expect when they do get their license and are driving," said Lynn Rice, the garrison's school liaison officer.

These graduates were the first to use the FOERST Driving Simulator provided by the Army's Installation Management Command - Europe. Ten simulators, including the one here, were installed throughout the region to enhance driver's education programs for DODDS students. A simulator is also located on Ramstein Air Base.

"It is really realistic," said Candace Sanchez, 17, a KHS junior. "You can hear the sound of the turning signal. You can hear the windshield wipers and the horn. It just gets you ready for all the different sounds that you are going to hear on the road."

Reflecting real-world driving comes through multi-panel monitors offering a natural awareness of peripheral vision. It is complete with a rearview mirror and side mirrors.

"Students get to experience the car in motion, stopping the car and searching for obstacles or hazards that they might face as they are driving not only under normal conditions but also when driving at night or in the rain or snow," said Tom Burriss, the KHS driver's education teacher.

The student can choose to use the simulator in manual or automatic mode.

"No one in my family knows how to use a clutch so I'm the first to learn how to shift gears," Han, who does not yet have her driver's license, said.

Jeremy Way, 18, Ramstein High School senior, said the simulator was a fun way to learn, but could be annoying at times. "Deer would just pop out of nowhere - truly nowhere - they would just appear and boom - they come out right in front of you and just stop there," he said.

Burriss said the class is divided into 18 chapters discussing topics such as buying a car and the basic function and controls of a car. For graduation, students had to complete 50 hours in the classroom - two hours during the week and four hours on Saturdays. They were tested after each chapter and the four units, as well as taking a final exam. This course counts for .5 high-school semester credit.

It may also help graduates receive a discount on car insurance when they do start driving, said Rice.

"It takes a lot of commitment," Burriss said. He added that the students are still in school and this course was in addition to their homework assignments.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16