Students try out safe driving simulator

Published 7:15 pm Friday, March 4, 2011

TRYING TO READ A TEXT and drive at the same time is Bainbridge College student Mandi Inlow, who is from Bainbridge and is studying cosmetology. Watching Inlow in the driving simulator is Storn Olsen of UNITE, the group that put on the demonstration.

Dozens of Bainbridge College students got the chance to virtually experience drinking and driving or texting while driving as part of a safety demonstration held at the main campus recently.

The demonstration was sponsored by UNITE International, an organization from Grand Rapids, Mich., which has programs designed to educate about the dangers and consequences of drunk driving and distracted driving.

Students got into a real car whose dashboard was fitted with a video screen showing the results of a driving simulator powered by a computer.

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Students who did the drunken driving simulation put on special goggles that enabled the display to be altered to let students experience the “tunnel vision” that goes along with driving under the influence. The car’s virtual response to student’s control of the steering wheel was also affected, so they could see how difficult driving impaired is compared with driving sober.

“I think the simulator brings home the message of what you shouldn’t do while driving,” said Storn Olson of UNITE. “The simulation looks so real it’s like you’re driving—when people hit a pedestrian or a fixed object in the simulation, you see them genuinely freak out.”

For the texting simulation, students were given a special cell phone that was sent messages at different times. The students were asked to look down at the phone and attempt to reply to the message while continuing to drive.

BC student Leroy Akins listens to safe driving advocate Storn Olsen tell him about the consequences of driving while impaired or distracted.

After the simulations ended, usually with a student virtually crashing their car, Olsen and fellow safety advocate Heidi Martinez would briefly explain the consequences of texting or driving drunk in real life. Some of those consequences include court fines and attorneys’ fees, higher insurance premiums, causing injury to others and possibly jeopardizing their careers.

BC student Leroy Akins, who is from Bainbridge and is studying criminal justice, said he was surprised by how difficult driving impaired was in the simulator. He said that as a possible future law enforcement officer, he would tell his friends and family about the cautionary experience.