Simulators highlight dangers of distracted driving

Students were given an educational look at what could happen if they don’t maintain full attention to the roadway while driving.
Posted on 03/10/2023
A student experiences driving on a distracted driving simulator.By Gary Weckselblatt

Dozens of Quakertown Community High School students took the wheel of distracted driving simulators and saw 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 the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), 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.

School Resource Office Bob Lee and members of TMA Bucks, Carly Mannon, Community Traffic Safety Program Manager, and at TMA Bucks, and Ashley Sulon, Project Coordinator, were on hand to help guide students.

“This is about bringing 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.”

Members of the school’s SADD Club, which sponsored the event, include Ashlee Wagner, Trisha Patel, Kasey Goepfert, Eva Huot, Ryan Prince, Sienna Kehoe, Joy Bucci, and Morgan Lee. The club’s advisors are Advisors Adriane Carickhoff and Krista Rupar. “There’s so much distracted driving, and this is a good opportunity for students to experience it in a safe situation,” Ms. Carickhoff said. “It makes them think.”

Ms. Mannon of 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.”

Amy Spencer, Pediatric Trauma Coordinator for the Lehigh Valley Health Network, said the machines provide “So many situations where little things jump out at you. One little quick decision can be detrimental. Many students today certainly recognized that.”

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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