Students Take To Simulator To Learn Of Texting While Driving Dangers

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Each day, Derby High School Sophomore Cassie Walters sends a lot of text messages.

"Maybe like 500," Walters said.

But even with all that practice, when she got behind the wheel of the AT&T texting-while-driving simulator she quickly "crashed."

"I didn't think it would be that difficult and distracting," Walters said.

She says the experience had a profound effect on her.

"It's just not worth it to text and drive," Walters said. "It can wait."

It can wait is the simple message AT&T leaders are hoping to drive home with an aggressive national education program and its "The Last Text" documentary.

The program made a stop Monday at Derby High School. It has traveled to 15 high schools across the nation since June.

"Put simply, this is about saving lives," AT&T Kansas President Steve Hahn said.

The centerpiece of the school demonstrations is the texting while driving virtual reality simulator which puts teens in the driver's seat so they can see the dangers first hand.

"Having adults lecture doesn't impact them as much as actually putting their hands on the steering wheel and seeing, in a very safe way of course, just how distracted they are," Hahn said.

Derby High School Principal Tim Hamblin took a drive in the simulator in front of his students. He says he was immediately on board with bringing the program to Derby when AT&T contacted him two weeks ago.

"Sadly, I've had to attend funerals of our students, several of those were vehicle-related accidents," Hamblin said. "So, anytime we can express the dangers of driving, be it texting or not wearing a seatbelt, we want to do that."

It's a message that appeared to have resonated with students Monday.

"I'm pretty sure I'm not going to text in a car ever again," student Nancy Rubalcava said.

"I don't think I should waste my life on just one little text," student Connor Keetso said.

Before going back to class, each one stopped to sign a pledge not to text and drive. The new experience of the simulator was still fresh in their minds.

"It's definitely not a video game, it can happen in real life," Walters said. "I will not (text and drive) ever because that (simulator) was so hard."

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