“The simulator actually gives the students an opportunity to see what happens when you text and drive. It gives them real life situations. They’re actually in a real car, using the real pedal and steering wheel. It has situations they have to respond to while they are texting,” MaryStewart Lewis, regional director for AT&T, said.
The simulator remains stationary; however, students wear a visor to show the simulated road. They are asked to maneuver while texting.
Principal Danny Coggin said the idea for the simulator to come to the school started as a suggestion by a parent.
“We’ve been working on it since the summer to make sure it happened,” Coggin said.
The AT&T “No Text on Board” campaign encourages students to sign a pledge to not text while driving.
Window decals displaying the “No Text on Board” were given to students who signed the pledge. Students were also offered orange thumb bands as a reminder to wait to text until they’re not driving.
Walker Valley student Zach Goode did not do as well as he expected in the simulator.
His virtual drive ended with a crash.
“We( students) definitely do text and drive a lot,” Goode said.
He said the video opened eyes to consequences he never really thought of before.
“I usually don’t think about it every day,” Goode said. “I’ll definitely think about it now.”
Fellow student Erin Sullivan’s virtual drive was longer and didn’t end with a crash. Sullivan kept two hands in the wheel and texted minimally during the simulator.
Sullivan said the consequences of texting and driving is something she thinks about frequently.
“I’m really hard on my friends about texting and driving. If I’m in the car with them, I make sure they don’t text and drive. And then I don’t usually text and drive,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s a really good thing they are doing it in the schools, because a lot of people don’t realize ( the potential consequences).”
Three simulators have been traveling to various schools across the country since the spring.
“One of the statistics shows if you are traveling at 55 mph and look down for five seconds, you’ve traveled the length of a football field,” Lewis said. “So we’re trying to let them see what happens when you take your eyes off the road.”
AT&T is also collecting its own data through surveys before and after each student participates in the simulation. The post survey is being used to see if the simulator and a 10-minute video clip highlighting people’s lives who were changed because someone was texting and driving have impacted students to the point of changing their future actions.
Every senior spent time in the simulator on Friday. Students from a media class at Walker Valley also participated in a webcast with Merry Dye, whose daughter died in a car crash while reading a text.
“I’ve watched some of the reaction of the kids today. It’s tremendous, too. It hits home with them because they know they have their thumbs going and their eyes aren’t where they should be.” Coggin said.
Coggin said he knows the temptation to text and drive does not effect just students but adults as well.
The “No Text on Board” campaign is also encouraging students to be a voice for change by leveraging social media to spread the word about texting while driving, Lewis said.
Students are also encouraged to speak while riding with someone who starts to text while driving.