Simulator teaches teens danger of texting while driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, close to 5,500 people were killed and about 500,000 were injured in accidents relating to distracted driving in 2009. Even so, a report released this summer by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health showed that 42 percent of high school students still text while they are driving.

In effort to get through to these teens, a Massachusetts insurance provider and a charitable foundation developed a distracted driving simulator. The purpose of the simulator is to give students the opportunity to see how easily a car accident can occur while they are looking down at their cellphones to send a text or answer a call.

Last month, more than 100 students at Westfield High School took part in the distracted driving simulation, called Distractology 101. The teaching method appears to have worked for at least one Westfield senior, who said she no longer takes her phone with her while she’s driving.

The 17-year-old said she learned that even looking away to unlock her cellphone is enough time to cause an accident. “Thank God it was while driving a simulator,” the teen said.

The Distractology 101 simulator is housed in a van and offers a 45-minute long program for teens that involves several dangerous driving scenarios that drivers could easily encounter on the road. Teens are sent a text message and receive voicemail while behind the wheel, which demonstrate how much harder it is to avoid accidents while being distracted.

The Westfield High School principal said he hoped the students’ simulator experience “will take the place of their first accident.” Distractology 101 will be making its way to several other high schools in other high schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Source: MassLive.com, “Westfield High School students learn hazards of texting while driving,” Ted LaBorde, Oct. 15, 2012