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Defensive driving course mandatory for drivers of government vehicles

     Any member of the Fort McCoy work force -- military or civilian -- who drives a government vehicle or a leased (General Services Administration) vehicle is required to take a four-hour defensive driving course.

      Dave Scafe, a defensive-driver instructor for Griffin Services Inc., which has the contract to provide Directorate of Support Services service, said the course was developed by the National Safety Council. The course certificate is good for four years.

      "We try to make it as easy as possible for personnel to attend," Scafe said. "We usually hold the course at least three times a month to fit everyone's schedule."

      The course helps develop safe driving habits and attitudes and improves the way motorists see and respond to what happens on the road. Scafe said the course also is about motorists taking control over their actions behind the wheel.

      Motorists learn to recognize situations that can lead to accidents and how to avoid them. Attendees also learn how to recognize road rage - both in themselves and in other drivers - and how to deal with it.

      Scafe and fellow instructors, Bob Bruss and Henry Brown, cover a wide variety of topics and potential traffic scenarios in the course.

      Scafe, for example, imparts experience he has from a 26-year Naval career and from a law enforcement standpoint. One section of the course encourages motorists to think what they will gain by passing a slower moving vehicle. For example, on Highway 21 on the way into work at Fort McCoy, motorists often can find themselves behind a number of vehicles that are making their way to a gate entrance.

      "You may be tempted to pass them, but what does that gain you," Scafe said. "You create stress for yourself and the other drivers. By the time you are going through a gate, you often find yourself only several car lengths ahead. So what did you really gain?"

      The course also can be used, in some instances, to help meet the requirements of adjudicating a traffic ticket. Scafe said some auto insurance companies also accept successful completion of the training as a sign of safe driving and will offer policy premium discounts.

      Jane Schmidt, DSS transportation officer, said the course is required by Department of Defense Regulation 4500-36-R and by Army Regulation 58-1.

      The course is extremely important for motorists ages 26 years and younger. These personnel are part of the age group that has the highest number of fatal privately owned vehicle (POV) accidents in the Army. POV accidents are one of the leading causes of deaths in the Army.

      Scafe said he recommends the training for everyone in the Fort McCoy community. The number of vehicle-accident deaths in Wisconsin reached 838 fatalities in 2003, which was the highest total since 1987. The course is a method to help reverse that trend, he said.

      "We try to bring these factors to light," he said. "We have two video presentations that go over many of the factors involved in accidents."

            Reservations for the courses are required and are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants are required to bring their state driver's licenses to the course. For more information about course registration, call (608) 388-6535.


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