East High senior Cole Bathje learned about the dangers of distracted driving shortly after getting his license, through a virtual reality experience on Wednesday.
Bathje says, “I picked up my phone one time and I side swiped a sign and knocked the mirror off the car.”
It’s an incident he says he won’t soon forget. East High students got to virtually experience that same type of accident without damage or injury through a distracted driving simulator that lets them experience the dangers of texting and driving, in a safe environment.
East High senior Maddie Taylor says, “You get in. You put the goggles on then you start driving. They say once you’re comfortable pull out your phone. And once you pull out your phone, it just goes down hill from there. Like I just crashed the car immediately into a tree.”
Bathje had a similar experience. “It’s a lot different than I thought it was going to be. I’m guilty of texting and driving sometimes but when I was doing it I only lasted about five seconds. I blew through a stop sign and got hit. So, its kind of eye opening.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says people who use a cell phone while driving are four to five times more likely to be in injury causing traffic crashes, and two thirds of teens admit to text messaging while driving.
District 205 Drivers Ed Instructor Jeff Bries says, ” A lot of them see their parents do it. See everyone else do it. So, they need to make sure that they don’t do it themselves.”
After experiencing the simulator, students then sign a pledge not to text and drive. “I learned from today obviously like not to pick up my phone really anymore. It’s just not important. Not worth it.” says Taylor.