Simulator teaches about tough winter driving

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A driving simulator was held for local plow drivers last week in Albert Lea to help them overcome difficult snowplowing conditions.

The  simulator was on display at the Minnesota Department of Transportation shop May 31, Wednesday and Thursday.

Program assistant Brad Swartz described the simulator as one-of-a-kind, noting it allows participants to hone their skills year-round and shows situations snowplow drivers face.

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MnDOT Public Affairs Coordinator Mike Dougherty said a lot of training focuses on reaction time and rig safety, noting participants reached their prescribed speed — probably 25 to 35 mph — before having vehicles pull out or come toward the plow.

He said the driver’s job was to maneuver the vehicle safely past or stop it, noting he thinks the simulation depicts stopping time well.

“In snow with a 50,000 pound plow, you can’t stop if someone pulls out and slowly starts driving in front of you, you need to slow down,” Dougherty said, noting participants also faced varying routes, such as narrow city streets or hills, curves and other situations.

Swartz said MnDOT is always looking to find new, better ways for drivers to increase their proficiency, noting this is the first year for a new simulator that he said includes advanced programming graphics to make the simulation more lifelike.

The simulator will be in Owatonna this week, and then, after a stop at the service stop, will go to the Mankato area.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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