By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Last Friday, UNITE’s Arrive Alive Tour visited Lincoln High School with its distracted driving simulator. Throughout that day, students participated in the program, which uses a high-tech simulator and impact video to allow students the opportunity to experience the potential consequences of drunk and distracted driving.
Bringing this program to the school was a high priority especially at this time of year since prom night is approaching, making it doubly beneficial to make students aware of the need to be alert and focused while driving.
The Arrive Alive visit was sponsored by the Shinnston Police Department and Lincoln High School’s S3 Intervention Program.
Arrive Alive’s motto is that “good decisions prevent collisions”, and giving students the opportunity to actually sit behind the wheel during the programmed simulation gives them a chance to react and realize how dangerous such situations can be.
Chris Emmorey, with the Arrive Alive tour, stated that students’ reactions to the program are usually “surprise” and “disbelief”.
“Young drivers think they’re in control of the situation and find distractions causing accidents as highly improbable; but that is not the case. They are typically very shocked following the experience at just how easily accidents can occur, so the program brings awareness to the forefront,” Emmorey said.
Watching the news shows just how many accidents are drunk driving related. And in today’s world, cell phone usage runs a close second. About 89% of all Americans have a cell phone, and drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because they are also more prone to texting than any other age group – along with their lack of driving experience – it is critical that they learn how their misjudgments can result in serious consequences.
Emmorey noted that juniors and seniors who are about to enjoy their prom events are particularly targeted at this time of year. “However, we also encourage younger students to experience the simulator – even before they are of driving age,” he added. “Students are never too young to begin to think about the responsibility of undistracted driving. Even looking a facebook at a red light is a dangerous thing to do.”
Because of the high incidence of accidents due to distracted driving, many states have passed laws banning the use of cell phones while driving.
Emmorey concluded, “We track numbers when we visit and revisit an area and find that our program is an effective warning to students who have participated in the program. Taking phone calls and texting while driving just don’t mix with safety. You can’t take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel or your mind off of focusing completely on what is going on around you while on the highway. Visually, manually, and cognitively, you’ve got to stay alert at all times.”