Valdosta Daily Times

October 9, 2012

VSU simulates the dangers of texting while driving

Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — According to the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association, more than 80 percent of Americans now have a cell phone. That is up 11 percent since 1995. Cell phone use has become a 21st century fact of life. A recent national survey found that roughly three of every four motorists say they talk on the phone in their cars and another one in five admits to text messaging when they’re behind the wheel.

These sobering statistics are why the Office of Health Promotion at Valdosta State University invited PEERS Awareness — a company focused on entertainment based health and wellness — to campus on Monday to demonstrate a Texting Driving Simulator.

“It demonstrates the dangers of not paying attention on the road,” said PEERS Awareness representative Tyler Salzwedel.

The simulator is a real car with sensors attached to the gas and brakes. Though the car never moved in reality, students wore virtual reality goggles to simulate a driving experience.

“It’s like a videogame and the car is like the controller,” said Salzwedel.

Students were able to drive on a number of simulated courses that allowed them to drive between 35 and 55 miles per hour.

“We ask them to have their phones ready,” said Salzwedel.

As the students drive, the

simulator controller Aaron Snyder would tell the students to send random texts such as: Are you up for a movie tonight?

The simulation usually ended with the driver crashing, running off the road or hitting a pedestrian.

At the end of the simulation, students are given their driving statistics which demonstrates how many times they go off the road, if they were speeding, if they ran a stop light, if they were in a collision, if they hit a pedestrian and how many times they swerved out of their lane.

VSU Senior Jermila Ingran doesn’t usually text and drive, but tried the simulation for extra credit for her Introduction to Swimming class. She learned that she was not a very good driver while trying to text. She had one collision, crossed the center line twice and exceeded the speed limit.

VSU Sophomore Troy Peterson doesn’t ever text and drive, but was also curious to try the simulation.

“It just seemed like something fun to do,” said Peterson.

During his simulation, Peterson crashed into the back of another car.

“Texting while driving is very bad,” said Peterson.

Peterson stated that he puts his phone to the side while driving.

“That’s why I didn’t answer you back yesterday,” said Peterson to his friend.

Aside from being able to experience texting and driving for themselves, students were also able to watch other student’s simulation on televisions set up outside of the car.

According to Salzwedel, this simulation is very important to share because texting while driving is becoming more and more of an epidemic.

“It’s like drunk driving,” said Salzwedel. “It’s just as dangerous.”