Driving While Texting
ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Learning how dangerous it is to drive distracted, junior David Dressler tries to text and drive while sitting at one of the driving simulators.
"Driving while texting (DWT) has surpassed DUI as the scariest driving habit," said Pat Morgans, driver education teacher at Marian Catholic High School, quoting information from the Car And Driver Magazine website.
Chances are if you use a cell phone, you are aware of text messages. Texting, also known as SMS (for short message service), is on the rise, with about 6 billion sent everyday. Undoubtedly, more than a few of those messages are being sent by people driving vehicles.
According to textingandrivingsafety.com, 23 percent (1.3 million crashes) of auto collisions in 2011 involved cell phones. It added that 5 seconds is the minimal amount of time your attention is taken away from the road when you are texting and driving. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, that equals driving the entire length of a football field without looking at the road. The site added that text messaging makes a crash 23 times more likely to happen when texting, compared to other distractions like dialing (2.8 times likely), reaching for a device (1.4 times likely) and talking or listening (1.3 times likely).
Witnessing first-hand about the real dangers of driving impaired or distracted, students at Marian Catholic High School were given the chance to sit behind the wheel of a special computer driving simulation program created specifically to enforce safe driving habits. Through the simulators, students learned what it was like being behind the wheel when you are under the influence or are not paying attention to the road while driving.
"Like real life, these simulators provide real-life consequences to the students," added Morgans.
When the simulation begins, the driver can choose to drive with no impairments; drive drunk; or drive distracted. The driver then enters information about his/her driving habits.
Following the brief survey, the driver is transported to the driver's seat of the vehicle and begins the course, maneuvering through a town while trying to avoid hitting obstacles, such as other vehicles, pedestrians or buildings; all while either under the influence or being distracted by texting, music or other things.
The simulation also provides the driver with realistic scenarios about what happens when you drive drunk or distracted. If the driver gets into an accident, a real-life scene plays out of going to the hospital, getting worked on by hospital staff and then getting arraigned and sentenced in court. If the driver gets pulled over by police, a road test to see if they are under the influence is performed, and an arraignment and sentencing occurs.To make the program even more realistic, Lehigh Valley Health Network asked the simulator designers to put Pennsylvania State Troopers and a Lehigh County judge in the simulator.
Three of these simulators were purchased by LVHN through the Drs. Joseph and Rose Mattioli Endowment Fund for Continuing Excellence in Trauma Care, and the Fleming Trust.
"This simulation program is open to any high school that would want to teach students about being focused behind the wheel of a vehicle," said William McQuilken, trauma prevention coordinator, LVHN. High schools interested in making an appointment for representatives of LVHN to conduct a program at the school can contact McQuilken at (610) 402-9047.
"The impairment and distraction simulators provide students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes instead of making a bad decision in real life," said Morgans.