Simulator shows dangers of distracted driving

AAA, Duval County Tax Collector spread awareness about distracted driving

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Area drivers have the chance this week to get behind a virtual wheel and experience the dangers and consequences of distracted driving.

About 78 percent of teens and young adults admit to reading text messages while driving. AAA hopes the chance to get behind a virtual wheel and experience the dangers and consequences will help prevent people from driving distracted.

AAA is partnering with the Duval County Tax Collector's Office to bring the simulator to the area to show anyone, specifically teens, just how dangerous distracted driving is.

Organizers say summer is the perfect time for this event because teens are more likely to be involved in deadly crashes June through August.

An AAA spokesperson said the simulator is about as real life as it gets -- from experiencing medical personnel arriving to the scene of a crash to facing a judge in court -- the simulator walks a person through the real dangers of distracted driving.

AAA said it offers the experience because of the statistics. Distracted driving such as texting and driving and driving under the influence causes as many as 80 percent of traffic crashes.

Summer is typically the deadliest time for young drivers because school is out, so teens have more time to joyride.

And each summer nearly 800 teens die in traffic crashes -- an increase of 26 percent over the rest of the year.

During the simulator, the driver encounters various road obstacles, all while trying to send text messages while behind the wheel. They also get to experience how reaction times and visibility change for drunken drivers.

"It was definitely harder than a regular car, especially," said Allen Taylor, who tried the simulator. "You had to control your speed real well."

Drivers see what's its like to crash, to get help on the scene and even get sentenced by a judge.

Even Duval County Tax Collector Michael Corrigan gave it a try.

"I was amazed at how difficult it was," he said. "I mean, if you were distracted at all, it's almost impossible to drive safely."

The Jacksonville AAA branch hopes everyone who makes it out to the event will leave more aware of the consequences of distracted driving.

"That they would have a greater appreciation for the lives they're endangering," Dina Watson said. "Passengers and motorists and drivers alike, we want them to realize driving distracted is not a minor offense at all. It puts everyone, including themselves and their loved ones, at risk."

The simulator was held at the Tax Collector's Office at Hogan Road and Beach Boulevard from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m Wednesday. On Thursday it will be at the Mandarin location off San Jose Boulevard at the same times.

For more information on distracted driving as well as other simulator events around the area, click here.