PANA — Ashlyn Miller hit a car on Monday, and Kimberly Wright almost struck a pedestrian.
Luckily, these Pana High School students weren’t on the road. They were using a simulator that illustrated just how dangerous texting while driving can be.
Miller and Wright were among more than 100 students who were put to the texting test by the high school and PEER Awareness, a health and wellness company based in Grand Rapids, Mich., that provided the AWARE-TXT simulator.
Students wore virtual reality goggles as they sat behind the wheel of an actual car in the school’s gymnasium. Monitors and sensors on the car rendered a virtual field of vision, not only visible to the “driver” through the goggles, but also to fellow students via a projector screen, and all were able to see the dangers of distracted driving as student after student attempted to drive, text and avoid hitting pedestrians, dogs and other cars.
“We want to let students know just how much trying to text while driving affects them,” said Brad Hilbert, a driver education instructor at the school. “I think they’re realizing how much it distracts them.”
Wright, a senior, said the simulator was a great way to illustrate the dangers of distracted driving.
“Actually getting the hands-on experience helps students get the idea,” she said. “I know people who text and drive, and this makes you think twice.”
Alex Hernandez of PEER Awareness said he feels the simulator is more effective than merely speaking to students about texting and driving.
“Texting and driving is killing more teens than drinking and driving is today,” he said, adding that adults are guilty of it as well. “Instead of having the students in a classroom, they can use this simulator. It’s fun, but it also has a strong point.”
Miller, a sophomore, said although she doesn’t have her driver’s license yet, the simulator made an impact on her.
“It was hard to see due to the goggles,” she said, adding that the simulator made her realize how easy it is to hit other cars when trying to text.
Illinois law bans texting while driving.