Dublin Villager

Simulator helps teach lesson about distracted driving

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CHRIS PARKER/THISWEEKNEWS
Jack Brim and Sam Wilson (right) watch as Justin Aslo operates the distracted driving simulator during lunch at Dublin Jerome High School Thursday, March 20.

Jerome High School students last week racked up hundreds of dollars in moving violations.

Luckily, the tickets issued by the Ohio Department of Transportation's distracted driving simulator were tallied up more for educational value than for fiscal gain.

Jerome High School School Resource Officer Chuck Collier brought the simulator to the school for three days last week to teach students the dangers of distracted driving.

"I'm friends with (WBNS-TV Channel 10 sports reporter) Dom Tiberi and we were talking about (distracted driving)," Collier said.

"He's the one that informed me that ODOT has four of these simulators across the state."

The distracted driving simulator that had students lining up for a try during lunch and study hall is set up like a car with a steering wheel, gas pedal, break and windshield.

The simulator has a passenger who is something of a bad influence.

"The further you drive the passenger says, 'Thanks for driving me home. This seat belt is uncomfortable. I'm not going to wear it. Can you call my brother?'" Collier said.

The simulator is played like a video game and drives students through residential streets while trying to make a phone call and then text.

"Hundreds of kids have come through to do this," Collier said. "Its fun and they're learning something.

"They're seeing how easy it is to get off course in a number of seconds."

Driving and using a cell phone aren't the only challenges thrown at students.

Deer dart across the road, a police car follows and that pesky passenger asks the driver to text her brother.

"I think it shows distracted driving can change your life," said Taylor Gutherie, a Jerome freshman.

Students got pulled over for speeding, hit deer, ran stop signs, hit a freeway barrier and made other mistakes during the exercise.

"That's all it takes -- one second," Collier said.

As a crash reconstructionist, Collier has heard the statistics and seen reports on the dangers of distracted driving.

At a conference a researcher told him he'd rather see his children get into a car with a drunk driver than a distracted driver.

"Distracted driving is the biggest cause of accidents nationwide," Collier said.

Even though drivers younger than 18 years old are prohibited from using any electronic devices while driving, Collier knew the simulator would bring a valuable lesson.

"They acknowledge that this is a problem," he said.

"A lot of them get done and say 'I'm never going to text and drive,' which is the point of this."

Collier hopes to bring the distracted driving simulator back next year for another lesson that students could take home with them.

"They all leave here knowing the dangers," he said. "Even if they know, this makes it more real.

"This is a great tool for kids, but it's not a kid-specific problem. This is for everybody... Just here in Dublin you can't drive down the road without seeing someone texting or on their cell phone."

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