FDOT using new driving simulator to help curb distracted, impaired driving

Technology will be used in classrooms across North Florida

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter, News4Jax.com Staff

LAKE CITY, Fla. - Texting and driving continues to be a growing trend. In 2015 more than 3,400 people were killed and nearly 400,000 more were hurt in crashes involving distracted drivers.

To curb distracted and impaired driving among teenage drivers, the Florida Department of Transportation has a new tool: a driving simulator, the Virtual Driver Interactive from One Simple Decision.

The simulator allows students to experience the first-hand dangers and consequences of distracted and impaired driving. The program consists of simulated drives, first-person consequence videos, interactive quizzes, and interactive advice from experts known as Realty Check videos.

"Social media and cellphone usage has really created an increase in distracted driving crashes,” FDOT District 2 spokesperson Tracy Hisler-Pace said.

The simulator will be used in schools across North Florida to highlight the dangers that drivers face on a daily basis.

The simulator consists of a large touchscreen computer and steering wheel and the simulator reacts differently based on the scenario pre-selected for the student. For example, the distracted driving mode will have students text and dial phone numbers utilizing the touch screen monitor while also following the driving instructions presented during the simulation.

FDOT believes that this is a unique tool that could help warn students against texting and driving, a trend that continues to grow.

“Distracted and impaired driving are major factors in many crashes that result in injuries or fatalities,” said Greg Evans, FDOT Dist. 2 Secretary. “It is a concerning trend and we hope that this technology can help us warn students of the dangers associated with these acts and prevent future crashes.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015. During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones while driving, which creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries. These statistics also show that teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the times of fatal crashes.

This trend is mirrored with impaired driving. According to the CDC, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2015, which represents more than one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S.

Teens are the most at risk. At all levels of blood alcohol concentration, the risk of being in a crash is greater for teenagers than any other age driver.

FDOT officials hope the simulator will make teens think twice.

"And hopefully catch them before they really ingrain themselves in this bad habit of having a phone in their hands at all times while driving,” Hisler-Pace said.

Schools seeking more information about the product can contact Tracy Hisler-Pace at 386-758-3714 or Ron Tittle at 904-360-5457.

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