Student Tori Thomas of Chambersburg, Pa., didn’t last long behind the wheel of the Save a Life tour simulator. Thomas, a freshman at Penn State Mont Alto, took a spin in a driving simulator that tested a driver’s ability to text and drive at the same time. She crashed early, ending her spin through the suburbs.
“I didn’t get far, and I got a big fine,” Thomas said. “It’s definitely realistic and scary to think of.”
Thomas said she doesn’t typically text and drive.
“Only if my phone’s ringing,” Thomas said. “If I’m at a red light, I pick the phone up to see who’s calling and then I sit it back down.”
Kramer Entertainment of Grand Rapids, Mich., brought the simulator to campus Feb. 21. Students walked into the Heritage Room of the Mill Cafe only to see a casket, footage of fatal car accidents on a television screen, and floor mats showing the words “Texting and driving kills” where tables are normally gathered.
The simulator included a steering wheel, brake, accelerator, and a large screen that showed oncoming and rear-view traffic. An iPhone attached to the simulator sent texts with questions that required simple answers. Students needed to answer messages during their trip. At the end of the trip, students receive a citation listing any broken laws, fines, or fatal collisions.
“It was kinda realistic,” said Durrell Noel, 18, of Saylorsburg. “The wheel was a little bit sensitive, but it makes you aware of how distracted you are when you’re texting. I think a lot of teenagers or young people text and drive and don’t realize the dangers of it. I am actually guilty of it.”
Driver’s ed programs for years have used electronic drinking-and-driving simulators to give students a firsthand experience with how drinking alcohol slows their reaction time and affects their coordination. Now, texting-and-driving simulators are cropping up to take their place.
Some students giggled their way through the course, while others were quiet and serious. But the texting-and-driving simulator did provoke reflection.