Commonwealth Journal

Local News

August 29, 2013

Fatal Distraction

Simulator tests SWHS students’ reaction-time texting behind the wheel

Somerset —

One minute, you’re driving along, hands on the wheel of your vehicle. Your phone buzzes or beeps or tweets, whatever it does. You pick it up, look at the screen, and smile. You put your finger to the keyboard and start to respond —
BAM!
The next thing you know, you’ve crashed into the side of another vehicle that suddenly pulled out in front of you.
It’s an all-too-common scenario, but rarely one that young drivers get to experience from the comfort of a school library. 
On Wednesday, personnel from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety stopped by Southwestern High School and brought a unique piece of technology with them.
The D2 Distracted Driving Simulator looks a lot like a video game, but as Highway Safety Program Coordinator Tiffany Duvall notes, it isn’t exactly “Grand Theft Auto.” The device allows individuals to sit down at a steering wheel as they would in a car or truck and view three screens, designed to show animated on-road surroundings as one might see them through a windshield and two side windows.
Students sit down and get a feel for the controls of the driving simulator, trying out various speeds (following the posted speed limits, of course —though going too fast is certainly a possibility), then are encouraged to take out their cell phone and attempt to use it as they would to text, Facebook, etc. 
This gives them a feel of how difficult it is to drive while distracted by a mobile device — particularly when faced by the gauntlet of obstacles the simulator provides, everything from unexpected pull-outs to slowpoke tractors in the way. If you have a car crash, it simply serves to provide a lesson — without the pain and potential for death that come with actual accidents.

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