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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
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A Brilliant Way to Teach Teens the Dangers of Distracted Driving

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Every parent knows that teenagers love video games. So, what better way to teach teen drivers about the dangers of texting while driving or other forms of distracted driving than by having them play a video simulation designed to show the perils of distracted driving.

One Simple Decision, created by Virtual Driver Interactive Inc. (VDI), one of the nation's largest driving simulator manufacturers, seeks to modify driver behavior by showing drivers what can happen if they attempt to drive while driving under the influence or texting while driving. VDI's video program combines simulated driving and interactions with police, judges and emergency medical personnel in an intense, 20-minute experience featuring a real judge, actual sheriff's deputies and EMTs.

Harry Mochel, now 19, of Rye, N.Y., experienced One Simple Decison about a year ago at a private driver's education school in Rye. "I'd been driving for a little while already," he says. "My parents had heard about it and said you should try it." He says he was "driving" along on the simulator. "It tells you to start texting, so I took out my phone and started texting," he says. "I ended up crashing into a stop sign and got into a head-on collision. It's crazy to see how easy it was."

The simulation does not end with the car crash. According to Mr. Mochel, "[t]he real powerful part was that as soon as you got into the crash, the scene changes from the driving simulation scene to actual video footage of a cop walking up to you." "As he comes up, he shines a light in your face and says, 'Have you been drinking?' "Then you have the police booking you into jail, and the court," Mochel says. "It puts everything in perspective and makes it really realistic."

I have been speaking to local high school drivers education classes about the dangers of distracted driving. I notice that most modern drivers education classrooms are equipped with driver simulators, complete with steering wheel and video screen. I usually suggest to the students that they take the simulated driving test, and then re-take it while trying to receive, read, and respond to a text message. Students are surprised to discover that in the five or so seconds it took them to complete the texting exercise, their vehicle had traveled at least the lenght of three football fields while they were looking at the cell phone.

The "One Simple Decision" program seems like an even more effective way of making the point. Kudos to VDI. I hope there is a nationwide effort to provide this video simulation to high schools for use in their drivers ed programs.