Students Learning the Dangers of Distracted Driving Through Virtual Reality
Students of the West Fargo High School in North Dakota were exposed to the hazards associated with driving with distractions on May 9th 2016 thanks to an event organized by the North Dakota Safety Council and AT&T.
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“No text, no email, no glance is worth a life,” said Brian Jenkins, an AT&T representative who ran the event as part of the “It Can Wait” campaign. “It can wait five or 10 minutes to get to a safe location. Pull over to the side of the road, whatever it takes. Your lives are important to us and we want to see (students) live a long, happy life.”
Jenkins noted that the virtual reality rig, which was set up on the stage in the West Fargo High School theater, is a more immersive experience than the video game simulations.
With equipment consisting of a virtual reality goggles, headphones and a back pad, students can see for themselves situations that could occur from driving while being distracted.
The virtual reality experience filmed in Dallas, Texas let students encounter a wide variety of near misses such as schoolchildren crossing a busy street, cyclists, near contact crashes at freeways, and heavy city traffic coming to a climax at a violent T-bone collision.
“It kind of makes them wince … and scream out loud” at times, Jenkins said.
“That was pretty scary,” agreed Stanley Bannie, 15, a freshman at Sheyenne High School.
Tess Veen, 15, a freshman at West Fargo High School, agreed that the closing crash was an attention-getter.
“It feels like you’re right there and so it just freaks you out,” she said.
Perhaps 50 students had taken a seat in the virtual reality simulator by 12:30 p.m., Jenkins said.
Students who attended the event were also exposed to videos describing how lots of lives were destroyed and permanently damaged through distracted driving.
Darin Bardal, a West Fargo School District driver’s education teacher, said he thought the simulation was “pretty realistic.”
“We’re missing out on pedestrians. We’re missing out on car lights. I was really impressed with it,” Bardal said.
- Jenkins spoke about facts as to smartphones and what has become an epidemic of distracted driving in the U.S.
7 in 10 people utilize a cell phone in some way while driving, whether that means scrolling through social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram or talking on their phone among other applications.
- 62% of people keep their phones close to them while they drive.
- About 4 in 10 cell phone users utilize social media while driving. Around 3 in 10 are on the internet, and 1 in 10 even use video-chat.
- Facebook is the most popular social media platform, over a quarter of those polled are on the app while they drive. About 1 in 7 people said they are on Twitter as they drive. And 30% of those who said they post on Twitter while driving do it “all the time.”
Jenkins noted that the virtual reality simulation doesn’t give students any control, “but they do have control … in their real life,” he said.
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