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March 23, 2012

Safety

Defensive-driving course required for drivers of government vehicles

All federal government employees and military personnel who are authorized to drive a General Services Administration (GSA) or government vehicle must have a valid defensive-driving course certificate of completion.

Dennis Diercks, a Directorate of Logistics transportation assistant at Fort McCoy, instructs a four-hour National Safety Council (NSC) course to meet this requirement.
PHOTO: Dennis Diercks instructs a defensive-driving course at Fort McCoy. Photo by Rob Schuette
Dennis Diercks instructs a defensive-driving course at Fort McCoy. The course is offered the second Tuesday and third Thursday of each month. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

At Fort McCoy, the course is taught in the morning on the second Tuesday of each month and in the afternoon on the third Thursday of each month.

The course is required by Army Regulations 58-1 and 600-55.

Military personnel and civilian employees in the Fort McCoy work force are eligible to take the training.

Diercks said he will arrange special courses for military units that have a sufficient number of personnel.

“The class has all new videos,” Diercks said. “The knowledge/techniques of the training really don’t change a lot, unless a new law is introduced, such as mandatory seat-belt use (that went into effect in 2009 in Wisconsin and Minnesota).”

Federal law already had required seat-belt usage at military installations and when driving GSA/government vehicles, Diercks said. He also, if attendees wish, will go over other federal laws, such as those that govern the use of cell phones and texting for drivers. These are prohibited for drivers at Fort McCoy, except for the use of hands-free cell phones or if drivers use cell phones or text while they are legally parked.

During the course, Diercks encourages people to share their experiences and also to ask questions.

Although government employees who need the training also can get it online, the certification generally lasts for only one year. Diercks said those taking the course in person are certified for four years.

“I encourage everyone who can to take the live course,” Diercks said. “If there’s a change in the law, such as mandatory seat-belt use, they can ask questions about it. You can’t do that in an online course.”

“I keep the course training light and encourage participation. If someone asks a question that isn’t part of the instruction, and I don’t know the answer, I can get them an answer from people I consult with or know.”

Diercks said drivers make choices every time they get behind the wheel. Good choices lead motorists to their destination safely, while bad choices can lead to accidents.

“We are all human,” Diercks said. “I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t broken some traffic law at one time or another, no matter how minor.”

The course also teaches attendees about a number of methods they can use to help reduce the chances they will be involved in an accident.

Diercks said the course teaches a three-step collision prevention formula, which encourages drivers to recognize a hazard, understand the available defensive techniques they can use and act correctly on time.

Diercks attended a three-day NSC class at St. Paul, Minn., to become certified as an instructor. He is the only certified instructor at Fort McCoy who provides the training and one of the few people in the area who has the nationally accredited certification to teach the course.

Course attendees receive an NSC booklet and a certificate of completion. Diercks said some insurance companies will offer drivers who have completed the course a discount, generally 10 to 15 percent.

Certificates generally are available no later than the day after course completion at the Transportation Motor Pool, building 1887.

For more information about defensive-driving requirements in the Fort McCoy community, call Diercks at 608-388-8081.

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