Columbus North students learn the dangers of distracted driving through augmented reality

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WTHR) — As more high-tech gadgets end up in the hands of teens, it’s becoming increasingly important for them to learn the dangers phones can pose while on the road.

Distracted driving is the No. 1 cause of death for teenagers. To help educate teens about the danger of distracted driving, the PEERS Foundation took its distracted driving prevention program to Columbus North High School.

The group aims to empower youth by teaching them how to better their lives using “innovative and interactive learning interventions.” One of those innovations is the Augmented Reality Distracted Driving Education Simulator. It’s America’s first simulator of its kind.

Students got the opportunity to see just how dangerous distracted driving is through a virtual city while sitting in a real car interior.

At Columbus North, students quickly discovered they weren’t quite as good with using their phones while driving as some initially thought.

“It was really hard for me,” student Neal Likens said. “It was really hard to focus on both because when I looked at my phone, it took me a couple seconds to realize it was a red light, and I had to move my foot over.”

“The students are really shocked about how difficult it is to drive under the conditions of being distracted,” said Columbus North teacher Jennifer Hester. Hester said students being able to test this out in augmented reality is a lot better than reading about it in a book or listening to a teacher tell them about it. “This takes engagement to a whole new level.”

Likens said the experience definitely changed the way he looks at distracted driving.

“My parents have told me before not to do it, and I just did this and went, ‘Wow, that’s really hard.'”

Gone are the days of parents and teachers only warning teens about drunk driving. While it is still a definite danger that all drivers need to avoid, Hester said texting and driving is “probably our largest problem now.”

“It’s constant,” Hester said. “From when they get up to when they go to bed.”