Within 60 seconds of texting while behind the wheel, Jacob Campbell hit a pedestrian and rear-ended another car.
Fortunately for him, it was all a simulation.
“It kind of made me realize how much you have to look at the road if you’re being dumb and sending text messages while driving,” the senior Bellefontaine High School student said.
Students age 16 and over got a chance to experience the dangers of drinking or texting while driving Thursday as part of the UNITE’s Arrive Alive Tour 2013.
A high-tech simulator strapped to an actual car gives teens the experience of driving with the normal obstacles of other cars, traffic lights, trees and pedestrians. Students are then asked to drive while texting on their own phone. In most cases, they did just as bad if not worse than students who drove the same course with the simulated drunk driving application, which slows reaction time and vision through a computer program, said Patrick Sheehy, team leader for the Arrive Alive Tour.
“It’s actually four times more dangerous to text and drive than drink and drive,” he said. “But we’ve been hearing that it’s bad to drink and drive since we were little kids.”
Texting behind the wheel impairs a driver to the same degree as drinking four beers, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. It’s behind 25 percent of all crashes, and equates to 11 teen deaths every day, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The program is coupled with a graphic video showing a crash involving teens who were texting while driving and the after-effects on the victims and their families. It all brought home how horrible the outcome can be, said senior Emma Earick.
“I did the simulation and it was pretty much impossible for me to drive well,” she said.
Bellefontaine High School’s prom is Saturday. Senior adviser Melanie Lehman said she believes the hands-on experience will leave a lasting impression with students when they get behind the wheel this weekend.
“They have a little bit of fun but also take in the seriousness of it,” she said. “It makes a difference.”
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