Mascenic Regional High School students were given the opportunity to see first-hand the impact of distracted driving on Monday, using a state-of-the-art simulator making the rounds at several New Hampshire schools this week.
Mascenic, along with Alvirne High School in Hudson, Hollis-Brookline High School in Hollis, and Manchester High School West in Manchester, were each loaned the simulator for a day. Mascenic Principal John Barth said he jumped on the opportunity when it was offered.
“We see so many young people driving and texting. Everyone has a phone,” Barth said. “It only takes a second for a car accident to happen.”
The simulator was brought to New Hampshire schools this week, as part of a partnership between State Farm Insurance and the PEERS Foundation. The simulator uses augmented reality that uses emerging technologies such as eye-tracking software to show students how long they take their eyes off the road while using their phones.
Those using the simulator sit in the driver’s seat of a non-moving vehicle that has a steering wheel, turn signals and pedals, and wear a head-mounted augmented reality display that can show realistic scenarios involving other traffic, pedestrians, passengers and cell phones as the driver tries to avoid collisions.
Distracted driving is a problem. According to the state Department of Transportation, in 2016, 3,450 people were killed nationally in crashes linked to distracted driving. In 2015, 391,000 were injured in distracted driving crashes. Teens were the largest age group who were reported as being distracted at the time of fatal crashes. And drivers aged 18 to 34 are shown to be the most likely to die in distraction-affected crashes.
New Hampshire is among the states that has made it illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving, either for texting or making calls. The law also forbids actively using other electronic devices, including inputting information into your GPS, unless pulled to the side of the road.
The law is even stricter for most teenaged drivers. While the law allows drivers to use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth-enabled phones, drivers under 18 aren’t even permitted that.
The state also has more general laws banning “reckless” or “negligent” driving, which could cover other instances of driver distraction.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.