Dryden’s experience tells him education is crucial

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, June 25, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Dennis Dryden is the director of Niles High School's Drivers Education program.
He has been in drivers education for more 30 years and has taught in five different school districts over the last 20 to 25 years.
And, although school's out for the summer, he continues to offer drivers education for high school students during the summer months.
A true believer that drivers education is crucial to reduce accidents and teach people how to be responsible drivers, he said making people think when they are behind the wheel is the key to make driving safe for everyone on the road.
However, he also said it's crucial to get parents involved in their children's drivers education so that they can assist the students as they are making their way toward their driver's license.
Friday he and a few assistants were instructing 30 students, 15 of whom drove at the high school parking lot while the other half were out on the road.
Dryden said at Niles High School students start driving the very first day of the program.
Having been an instructor for so many years, he has realized one important thing about drivers education.
That is to let the students drive on the very first day of the program.
Dryden said the program integrates classroom, on-the-road and driving range instruction.
The program is also part of the "Click It or Ticket" State Highway program, a program that focuses on the importance of wearing safety belts while driving.
Jessica Murphy, a sophomore next year, was one of Dryden's students Friday.
Like many others, she already had some experience driving a car going into the drivers education program.
Which might have given her an advantage compared to other students who have never driven a vehicle before.
It might, however, also have given her a slight disadvantage.
Murphy, however, said she is more than happy to have those habits corrected by Dryden.
Melissa Olsen, who will be a junior next year, also had some driving experience before taking part in the high school's drivers education program.
Olsen too realizes she might have picked up a few bad driving habits while driving without a driving instructor by her side.
However, Olsen said one thing she soon picked up while in the program.
That was after she had practiced slalom driving, angle parking, three-point turns and parallel parking at the Niles High school parking lot concurrently with 15 other students who were sharing half-a-dozen vehicles.
Pat VanDalsen, a Niles High School Spanish teacher who has been involved in the drivers education program for seven years, is a certified drivers education teacher.
VanDalsen observed the students honing their skills at the parking lot Friday.
Never afraid to correct the students and give them orders through a megaphone, simply because of long distances, VanDalsen said she enjoys being a part of the drivers education program.
Having been a part of the program for so many years, VanDalsen said based on her experience, angle parking is the easiest exercise, while parallel parking is the most difficult – and dangerous one.
Dryden, happy to welcome more students to his drivers education summer classes, said those wishing to get started should get in touch with him as soon as possible.
He said there are still spaces left on the summer program.
For more information about the program call: 683-2894 ext. 333.