DUBOIS – The Penn State DuBois Student Life Office hosted an event to highlight the dangers of distracted driving on campus recently. Representatives from the Grand Rapids, Michigan based company, LEG, brought their distracted driving simulator to campus. Using a real car outfitted with simulation equipment, students drove using a computer program that replicated real driving on roadways filled with other cars, and lined with pedestrians, stop signs, and other realistic obstacles.
Students had the chance to give the simulator a try while sending a text at the same time. Some were surprised by what they learned.
“Once I started texting, it made a huge difference,” said student Dan Dettinburn of DuBois. “As soon as I started to text, I crashed.”
Ashley Douglas, a technician from LEG who operated the simulator, said that is the reality that this exercise is meant to demonstrate. That texting while driving is dangerous.
“It’s more dangerous than they expect, and routinely causes accidents and fatalities in real life,” said Douglas. In fact, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than half a million were injured, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“We’re trying to demonstrate that driving distracted really impairs your ability to operate a vehicle. That operating a vehicle really does require full concentration,” Douglas said.
“It’s something that, unfortunately, a lot of people do, and I don’t think anyone understands how much can happen and how important it is to focus on driving,” said Penn State DuBois Student Life Coordinator Marly Doty. “It’s not just you you’re putting at risk; it’s everyone on the road.”
Doty said students trained as certified peer educators were also on hand at the event, asking students to sign a pledge to not text and drive. Everyone who signed the pledge received a thumb band to show their support for safe driving.
Steve Harmic, Penn State DuBois