SVDS gives individual and small-class instruction to Brattleboro-area teens and adults. Classes are aimed at a lifetime of crash-free driving using a simple but elegant system called extraordinary zone control. SVDS meets at the Marlboro College Graduate Center at 28 Vernon St. in downtown Brattleboro. It’s conveniently located with first-rate facilities.
For 2018, SVDS is holding three teen sessions–January 13-February 26 (class closed), June 20-July 18, and July 23-August 22–and adult classes April 16-19 and mid-November (dates to be determined).
Individual instruction is by appointment.
SVDS owner/instructor David Kolkebeck left teaching Driver Education at Twin Valley High School, Whitingham, Vt., in April 2015 and started SVDS at year end following the death of his friend and driving partner, Mike Henkle of the Westminster Driving School. In addition to his three summers teaching with Mike at the Putney firehouse, Dave enjoyed a 25-year high school teaching career with stints also as dean of students, history instructor, and internship coordinator.
Many remember how dull Driver Ed was and Dave keeps his eye on improving it. Small classes are a good start. There’s an easy connection between car and class, teacher and students. Powerpoint and lecture don’t work, but group work and discussion do, and students don’t need to raise their hands.
Analyzing local road situations also helps. It’s not enough, for example, to learn what divided white lines between lanes allow you to do; for real interest students need to figure out why road planners put them in the middle of each leg of Brattleboro’s courthouse triangle and not at both ends. Once they do they drive it differently, using a signal and more gas at the start.
SVDS’s teen class features various guest presenters. A local physics teacher uses crash carts to show the effects of speed and mass and to explain why certain maneuvers like early braking matter. A veteran long-distance bicyclist tells what it’s like on the road and quizzes students on the surprising rules cars and bikes must observe. A former state liquor control investigator talks about the effects of alcohol and marijuana on driving. A Windham County sheriff explains what to do and not to do in a traffic stop, and has students examine a number of controversial encounters before conducting a mock stop in the Grad Center parking lot.
Dave in summer 2017 updated a lesson on the Exit 3 roundabout, the only multilane roundabout in the state: Students examined the Vermont DMV Driver’s Manual and videos by experts including VTrans on roundabout protocol, including how to exit from the inside lane. Students did the research on their smartphones and the exercise culminated in letters to either the DMV commissioner or a VTrans engineer featured in one of the videos. The students’ message? Please get your act together on the proper way to exit! VTrans repainted roundabout markings in mid-November 2017, effectively turning it into a rotary. This means drivers taking the first exit must use the outside lane, with all others using the inside lane. Interestingly, yield rules are the same. Despite new signage and bright orange electronic warnings of a changed traffic pattern, some drivers continue to use the outside lane to go straight. This can be pretty alarming when vehicles appear in the striped no-go zone (called a gore) to the left on entry and to the right before exiting.
Dave is fully insured; he and SVDS are licensed with the Vt. DMV. Dave uses a Subaru Impreza sedan with a passenger-side brake and automatic transmission for all instruction. His favorite teaching moment occurred when students took the inside lane of the Exit 3 roundabout for the first time and marveled on exiting that it was nowhere near as bad as they expected, even when they had to go around again. Rotarizing the roundabout (see above) should be a big relief for Dave and his students, once drivers figure the thing out.