Senior Kelsey Verhoff, 18, operates the texting and driving simulator Tuesday morning as part of the National Save a Life Tour that visited Buckeye High School.
HALEE HEIRONIMUS / GAZETTE Enlarge
Buckeye High School students got firsthand experience Tuesday how distracted driving and operating a vehicle while impaired can affect their safety.
The National Save a Life Tour, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., brought in two driving simulators for students to operate that featured texting and driving and drinking and driving.
“We’re trying to get students to understand the necessary distractions,” said CJ Rich, a representative of Save a Life Tour. “Texting while driving takes you away from those necessary distractions. If you can’t do it in this world, you can’t do it in the real world.”
While holding a cell phone that was attached and programmed to the texting and driving simulator, students received a text message every 30 seconds and had to reply before the next message was sent, all while trying to stay in their lane and pay attention to what was ahead on the roadway.
“I got distracted trying to hold the wheel and go back and forth looking at the phone,” junior Austin Bir said. “I got two questions in a row before I could respond.”
“It was stressful,” senior Kelsey Verhoff said. “I kept going in the other lane from looking down (at the phone) and up (at the screen).”
The drinking and driving simulator had a delayed reaction in the gas and brake pedals, and in the steering wheel, which caused students to overcompensate their speed and how they controlled the vehicle.
“The (steering) wheel would pull and it was hard to keep it straight,” Bir said.
Once the delayed reaction caught up to present time, the speed doubled. Many trials resulted in collisions, while others found students driving off the road.
“If they can’t control the delay when they’re sober, how are they going to control it when they’re intoxicated?” Rich asked. “The decision you make in one second is what will happen one second later.”
The simulator also created tunnel vision for the student drivers, which focused on the center screen rather than all three screens that provided full view of what was occurring to the right and left side of the vehicle. Smaller screens acted as mirrors.
“It’s important to see the sober perspective to be able to relate to a person who is drinking and driving,” Rich said. “It brings the situation to life.”
The National Save a Life Tour opened with a 45-minute presentation that included a 20-minute video that replayed an accident caused by distracted driving.
The simulators were set up in the high school auditorium all day for students to try out.
“The message was based on an unfortunate circumstance to show students how they can step up and do something better,” Rich said. “We aren’t trying to ruin their fun, but we want them to use precaution when making a decision.”
With many junior and senior students looking forward to Friday’s prom, high school Principal Gabe Tudor said the timing matched up well to bring in the National Save a Life Tour.
“The message was very direct and showed the possibilities that can occur with impaired driving — drugs or alcohol — or texting and driving,” he said. “Just like teaching, we followed up instruction with a real-life application. Hopefully today helped kids think twice before they act.”
Verhoff said: “It definitely makes you think before you act … whether you go to a party before or after prom and if you should be driving. I will definitely think before I act and take precautions to make the right decisions. Same with my friends as well.”
Tudor said the Buckeye Education Foundation donated $3,100 and an anonymous district parent donated $300 to bring the program to Buckeye High in York Township.
“We’re very grateful for that,” he said. “This is an impactful experience for the kids.”
Contact reporter Halee Heironimus at (330) 721-4012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.