Simulator steers teens from distracted driving

Simulator steers teens from distracted driving

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - US Army Sgt. Kalvin Jones hauls a massive trailer to schools across the country. The trailer is a tool that educates teens about the risks of drunk driving.

Inside, a virtual simulator gives teens a realistic experience of impaired driving. Although it looks like a fun video game, the actual purpose is to show that in real life there aren't any do-overs.

Latrina Sims is a junior at Harrison Central. She says the program was harder than any video simulator she's ever done.

"[The steering wheel] it wasn't moving how I wanted it to move, and I crashed into a truck," said Sims.

Swerving into traffic, hitting another car or a pedestrian, could land you in jail, or on your way to the hospital. The students learn about impaired and distracted driving in their health classes, but teachers say the program makes textbook pages come to life.

Health teacher Zach Allen tried the simulator out for himself. He believes this will make more students think the next time they get behind the wheel.

"You sit down and it's just like you're driving. There's dogs coming out at you, and your vision and everything is about two seconds behind. It's as realistic as it comes. It opened their eyes up a little bit," said Sims.

The trailer is part of the US Army's Mobile Exhibit Company. The distracted driving trailer was created in response to an uptick in fatal crashes.
The Centers for Disease Control report that drivers under the age of 20 have the highest rate of fatal distraction-related crashes, and six teens die from motor vehicle injuries every day.

Jones says distracted driving is an issue that he sees every day. He hauls the trailer to campuses across the country and the number of teens that use their phones while driving is not surprising.

"When we come into high schools and leave high schools, we see it. We tell them, 'Hey why are you doing this? It's not safe.' And when we drive everywhere, of course you probably see it, too."

Knowing the program is trying to help bring those statistics down is something that Jones says he can be proud of.

"That just makes me feel good when a young man and young lady come out and say "I'm never going to do this, I'm going to put my phone down," added Jones.

It's the first time the trailer has been to Mississippi. The next stop is St. Louis.

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