(Posted May 2, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
On April 16, local law enforcement officers invited London High School students to drive while distracted.
Several students took turns behind the wheel–not of an actual car, but of a simulator equipped with a video screen, steering wheel, and gas and brake pedals.
Set up in the commons area during lunch periods, the simulator served as a way to remind young drivers to keep their eyes and focus on the road while driving.
“Distracted driving is unsafe and irresponsible. In a split second, its consequences can be devastating,” said Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin.
The Sheriff’s Office, West Jefferson Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and London Police Department hosted the simulator event in recognition of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity that has the potential to distract a person from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing. Distractions include: visual–taking eyes off the road; manual–taking hands off the wheel; or cognitive–taking the mind off of driving. Texting while driving is an example that results in all three types of distraction.
The simulator puts participants in a scenario in which they are asked to text while driving. At the same time, they must try to navigate around obstacles, including people, in the road.
When they aren’t successful, the simulator shows videos detailing the consequences, from arrest to jail to court.
An “impaired” mode allows users to experience what it’s like to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“At the end, we can have students take a survey,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Talbert. “It asks questions like, ‘What do you think of the consequences of driving distracted?, ‘How likely will you be to drive distracted in the future?’ and ‘How do you like to learn about this kind of information?’ (simulator, videos, guest speakers). We give the results to the school principals.”
Law enforcement also sets up the simulator at the Madison County Fair each year to raise awareness among people of all ages.
Last year, 13,997 crashes in Ohio had a reported distraction, resulting in 51 fatal crashes.
From 2016 to 2017, the number of fatal crashes due to distracted drivers nearly doubled.
“With the increased focus on distracted driving during regular patrols, we are actively seeking out crash-causing traffic violations,” said London Police Chief Glenn Nicol. “You can also commit to traffic safety by insisting that everyone in the vehicle is wearing a safety belt.”