Biloxi High teens learn safe driving on "simulator"

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "Reducing Distractions" is the theme of this week's National Teen Driver Safety Week. Unfortunately, Mississippi is among the deadliest states for traffic accident fatalities among teenagers.

Students at Biloxi high school are getting some safe driving experience with the help of a computer driven "driving simulator."

"Move off when you are ready," the computer generated voice instructs the student.

Before they get behind the wheel of the driver's education car, students at Biloxi High complete 12 hours of simulator driving.

"What it does is allow students to come in and drive, go through the experience and make some mistakes without causing any harm to anyone. That's the great thing about it," said drivers ed instructor Joseph Brown.

Students learn quickly that driving safely demands focus.

"You have to make sure you don't run into deer. There's the occasional pedestrian you have to watch out for. Of course cars. And it's really teaching me a lot about driving," said student Emily Fountain.

The young people are taught in the classroom that distractions like talking on cell phones or texting while driving can have deadly consequences.

Isaiah Hurtado said the simulator is fun and educational.

"It teaches you about real life situations, especially with distractions. It teaches you that even with normal driving, there's still a lot of hazards you can go through," he said.

"I think that's one of the main things they overlook while driving is understanding that their focus on the road and what's going on around them is the most important thing," said instructor Joseph St. Amant.

The Centers for Disease Control says motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teens in the United States. And statistics show that drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a crash.

Lessons learned on the simulators may give teens a head start toward behind-the-wheel safety.

"It give me confidence that I can go out in the real world and drive by myself," said Zavion Aultman.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.