April 11, 2012

Safety and Security Staffer Thomas Winterstein Publishes "The Making of a Safe Driver"

Thomas Winterstein

"The Making of a Safe Driver," a comprehensive guide for teaching teenagers and others to drive, has been published for iPad by Thomas Winterstein, senior staff assistant with the college’s Office of Safety and Security, and his son David Winterstein, a technology-business professional who contributed the graphics to the book.

“I initially set out to write this book as a simple guide to explain and demonstrate safe-driving techniques for parents who want to teach their young person how to drive. As the content developed, it became apparent that anyone could use this information to teach another person how to drive, and it need not be limited to parents and their children. Ultimately, this book contains many safe-driving tips for those who already have a driver’s license, and it is an excellent resource for anyone who teaches driver-education programs,” says Winterstein.

The author has the credentials to expound on this subject. A member of the New York State Police from October 1966 until his retirement as a technical sergeant in April 1990, beginning in 1972 Winterstein conducted driver-education classes for police officers and other agencies, logging more than 5,000 hours as an in-car instructor during his career. He also is a certified instructor of defensive driving for the National Safety Council and supervised the emergency-vehicle operators' course for the Basic School for University Police Officers for the State of New York, sessions that went beyond technique and covered what to do in an emergency.

“Vehicles and drivers both have limitations,” Winterstein points out. “If you overextend the limits of either, you can lose control and crash.”

The book covers topics such as how to differentiate black ice from a wet road (check to see if there’s road spray on the tires of other cars; if it’s there, it’s water; if it’s not, it’s ice) – and what to do when you encounter black ice (pull off onto the shoulder, where there’s gravel for traction).

“The right thing to do is also the thing that just makes sense,” he says. “For example, slow down!”

Winterstein emphasizes the importance of being a safe driver and not relying on the safety rating of a vehicle. “Some people say SUVs are dangerous,” he remarks. “They’re not; the person behind the wheel makes it dangerous.”

He also has some observations about distracted driving and those who text and talk behind the wheel, subjects he deals with in “The Making of a Safe Driver.”

“The minimum stopping distance at 55 mph on dry road surface is 132 feet.  If you should hesitate one second for whatever reason, you travel approximately 82 feet. Your reaction distance is approximately 60 feet, so you travel approximately 142 feet in less than two seconds, and that is just getting your foot on the brake. Then you add in the minimum stopping distance of 132 feet -- that adds up to approximately 274 feet, to stop. That is almost the length of a football field. Additionally, what is not figured in this equation is perception distance. That is, when did you perceive the hazard?”

In addition to vehicle and traffic laws people are expected to obey, Winterstein calls attention to “nature’s laws: friction, the center of gravity and momentum.”

He says, “If you violate a vehicle and traffic law, you get a ticket and you may pay a fine. If you violate one of nature’s laws, you’re in real danger as a driver – nature’s laws can be very unforgiving.”

Winterstein has been in only one accident of his own making, when he turned the steering wheel too soon backing out of the garage and hit the door frame with his fender.

“That’s it,” he says. “I’ve been driving since I was 16, and I’m pushing 71. I’ve been real lucky, but I’ve been real careful, too. I practice what I preach.”

(To read the book on an iPad, go to www.lulu.com and enter The Making of a Safe Driver in the search box. Winterstein is anticipating availability of print copies in the future.)

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace of their choosing.

The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at 35 locations in New York state and online. Its 63,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

For additional information, visit www.esc.edu.


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