Distracted driving dangers

Simulators give teens an educational look at what could happen if they don’t maintain full attention to the roadway while driving.
Posted on 03/29/2022
A student turns his head to the photographer while having his hands on the wheel of a distracted driving simulator.By Gary Weckselblatt

Quakertown Community High School students had the opportunity to take the wheel of distracted driving simulators to see how their lives can change in a matter of seconds when they’re on the road in a real-life situation.

The simulators, brought to the high school thanks to the efforts of School Resource Officer Bob Lee, were stationed outside the school’s Performing Arts Center and provided by the Lehigh Valley Health Network. They consist of a screen, steering wheel, and foot pedals and generated various distractions for the young drivers, including moving cats, dogs, and pedestrians.

“The purpose of today is to bring awareness and education to our young drivers about what can happen when they are distracted while driving,” Officer Lee said. “It doesn’t only have to be about texting. Anything that takes your eyes off the roadway can quickly damage your life. These simulators are hands-on, virtual, 3D, which make more of an impact than someone lecturing you.”

QCHS sophomore Sarah Acosta, a member of the school’s Students Against Distracted Driving club, which advocated for the event, said the simulators “make you realize how being distracted can affect you, how easy it is to crash.”

Carly Mannon, Community Traffic Safety Program Manager at TMA Bucks, the county’s transportation management association, set up tables with literature for students. She said it doesn’t matter if a student has been driving for a while or recently received a license “they all think they’re going to pass. And, for the most part, they’re not going to. I hope it shows the consequences of what can happen. They can end up in jail, have fines or hurt someone. It’s not a game. These are real-life situations.”

According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, drivers ages 16 to 19, per mile driven, have crash rates approximately four times greater than those of drivers ages 20 and older. A leading contributor is driver inexperience.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults. More than 5,500 young people die every year in car crashes and thousands more are injured.

In fatal speeding-related crashes with teen drivers, the risk increases exponentially with each additional peer in the vehicle. In 2018, 57 percent of teenage passenger deaths occurred in vehicles driven by another teenager.

“I commend our SADD students, Officer Lee, TMA Bucks, and the Lehigh Valley Health Network for bringing the simulators here to allow our kids to learn to expect the unexpected,” Principal Mattias van 't Hoenderdaal said. “As we get closer to prom season, and students are getting out and driving, many for the first time, we will be putting out warnings to be mindful of the dangers of distracted driving.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].
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