Shelton High students learn texting and driving don’t mix

Fabian Valdez took his turn at the texting and driving simulator in the Shelton High School gym on May 11.

As he sat at the wheel and “drove” down a straight road, all seemed to go well. On the monitor, he drove to the right of the yellow line, a safe distance away from approaching traffic.
But then, the cell phone he was holding started beeping a text message, and he took his right hand off the wheel to answer the text.
When he looked up, the monitor showed his “car” veering off onto a grassy curb, and then into a bus.
Looking somewhat shaken after his drive, Fabian said he was driving well, but “it gets harder as the phone starts to go off. I got hit by a bus!”
He was one of the students — mainly sophomores and juniors — who volunteered to take a turn at the simulators to experience the consequences of distracted driving in a safe setting.

Save a Life Tour

The state Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office funds Kramer International’s Save a Life Tour distracted driving program “to prevent roadway fatalities and injuries related to distracted driving,” according to Kramer International.
The tour visits high schools throughout the country and overseas, said Justin Boss, Kramer’s road manager.
“The students are left with something more than stats and statistics,” Boss said.
Student Council President Charles O’Keefe said his peers “definitely understand the danger, but this puts it in front of them.”
Research has shown that distracted driving is taking more lives than drunk driving, O’Keefe said.
As the students took their turns at the texting simulator and the drunk driving simulator, students in the bleachers could watch a large screen to experience what the “drivers” were seeing.

Alcohol and delayed reaction

The audience groaned when the vehicles hit a bus, a building or another car and the impact shattered the windshield.

The drunk driving simulator replicates the delay alcohol causes in a person’s reaction time.
Students sitting at the simulator “drove” across a sidewalk or oncoming traffic before they noticed what was happening and tried to correct their course.
They learned that the brain uses the same processes for texting and driving, so it’s impossible to text and drive safely.
“You guys are in control of your phone,” O’Keefe told the students. “Don’t let it be the other way.”

Devastating consequences

Juniors had access to the simulators all day, and the school day began with an assembly featuring an AT&T documentary, “From One Second to the Next,” directed by filmmaker Werner Herzog.
The documentary highlights the stories of those who have had to face the often devastating consequences of distracted driving.
The Student Council sponsored a week’s worth of “safe decisions” activities, leading up to the prom on May 16, said Beth Smith, Shelton High headmaster.
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The week was scheduled to end with a mock car crash event for seniors on May 15.
It appeared that students working the simulators were getting the message about distracted driving.
As she texted at her simulator, Taylor Nacovitch found that she had crossed the center line and was heading for oncoming traffic. A smashed windshield ended the simulation.
Taylor said she found the experience “realistic. “It’s so hard to text and drive,” she said.