Have you ever been driving when a text came through? Perhaps you glanced down at your phone and thought, “I can answer this quickly. No big deal.” Unfortunately, that’s all it takes to cause a serious accident. Upper School students safely learned this first-hand and about what it’s like to drive impaired during a visit from UNITE’s Arrive Alive Tour® on Thursday. They climbed behind the wheel of an actual vehicle, donned goggles and decided whether to simulate driving while texting or while under the influence of alcohol or marijuana. A computer ran the simulation, altering response times for driving under the influence. Students who tried to text while driving used their actual phones.
Bystanders could watch a nearby television screen that shows exactly what the driver sees. They watched as their friends exceeded the speed limit, drove too slowly for safety and veered from one side of the road to the other. Several were involved in head-on “crashes,” which resulted in a severely shattered windshield and almost certain injury if real.
The program uses a high-tech simulator, impact video and a number of other resources to educate about the dangers of intoxicated driving. The simulator allows participants to experience the potential consequences of impaired driving in a controlled environment. After the students finished their simulations, they climbed from the vehicle and were presented with a “citation” that cataloged their various infractions. They discussed the consequences, including injuring or even killing themselves or others, stiff fines and penalties, and losing their licenses.
One student who has her permit and is still learning to drive talked about how she will be much more aware of her friends’ behavior when they’re behind the wheel. She shared that when her mother is driving and a text comes through, mom hands the phone to a passenger to read and reply. The student said that she’ll handle the phone when she’s riding with friends, and will hand her phone off when she’s earned her license and is driving on her own.
Science Teacher Brian Coco was instrumental in arranging for the simulator to visit MICDS. He has brought a variety of programs to the School and said this one is the most realistic to date since students are getting behind the wheel of an actual car. He said it’s important for students to experience first-hand, in a safe environment, how easy it is to cause an accident when driving under the influence or while distracted. He remarked that with marijuana use becoming increasingly mainstream for both medicinal and recreational use, it’s vital for students to see just how much it can impair their driving, and what the consequences could be.
KMOV 4 covered the Arrive Alive visit. You can see their news story here.
Here are some important statistics shared by UNITE’s Arrive Alive team:
- Nearly one-third of all traffic deaths involve alcohol-impaired drivers.
- Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash.
- On average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
- In 2014, the highest percentage of drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes were in the age range of 21 to 24.
- Every day, people drive drunk more than 300,000 times. However, only about 3,200 of those people are arrested.
- One of the most commonly recognized driving distractions is cell phone use. About 89
percent of all Americans have a cell phone, according to CTIA – The Wireless Association.
- Drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Their lack of driving experience can contribute to critical misjudgments if they become distracted. Not surprisingly, they text more than any other age group, and the number of young drivers who text is only increasing.