The Arrive Alive program gave Pottsboro High School juniors and seniors the opportunity to experience the impact of distracted and drunk driving Tuesday. The program tours around the country with a high-tech simulator designed to imitate the impairment caused to motorists under the influence or distracted by a cellphone or something else.
Pottsboro High School Family Consumer Science teacher Ashlee Dyer said the simulation was one part of a two week program on distracted and drunk driving. She explained the simulation is a way to make the dangers real for students.
“They get that experience in a real vehicle,” Dyer said. “A lot of times they think ‘I’m invincible, this could never happen to me.’ It gives them an opportunity to see it’s not as easy as I thought it was to stay between those lines.”
Pottsboro junior Mckenzie Willits organized the event as part of the school’s Leadership Program.
“There has been a lot of accidents lately and most of those accidents are caused by teens,” Willits said. “Most teens don’t see the end result. They just do whatever they want. We need to think about our actions a little bit more.”
The Unite Corporation is the company over the Arrive Alive program. Director of Marketing Todd Betzold said the program was started because distracted driving affected the owner’s family.
“It’s a great program that we have,” Betzold said. “It’s a hot topic. It’s something that a lot of teens especially are doing behind the wheel. Any person should be aware of and should know the dangers of it. This is a great way to find out by being in a controlled environment.”
The simulation takes place inside an actual vehicle. The car is not on but Bluetooth sensors on the brakes, gas and other components translate the actions of the driver to the computer and into the simulation. The participant wears virtual reality goggles while “operating” the car.
For the distracted driving simulation, the students are asked to send a text message while driving the vehicle. They then experience the impact of the distraction as the car changes speeds, drifts into the other lane and sometimes veers completely off the road. For the drinking and driving simulation, drivers are impaired by blurry vision and slow reaction times.
The students are then given a ticket following the simulation with information on how fast they were going, if they were swerving, driving below the speed limit, on the wrong side of the road, driving off the road, not stopping or if they collided with someone or killed them.
By around 1:30 p.m., Willits reported over 35 students had “died” in the simulation that day so far. This event will be followed by several activities over the next week.
“Every 51 minutes a teenager dies as a result of distracted driving,” Dyer said. “Next week, every 51 minutes we will play a flatline over our announcements. Then, my leadership kids, one by one, will be pulled out of class to represent that teenager dying. They will have to put on a black shirt that says It Could Be You. They won’t be able to speak to anyone the rest of the day because they’re supposed to represent that teenager that died in the accident.”
Additionally, the Texas Department of Transportation will be visiting the campus with additional simulations and activities. These events will conclude with a pledge not to be a distracted driver. The pledge will be taken right before prom weekend.
Dyer said the school has spoken about the potential for a breathalyzer requirement or other safety measures for prom in the future.