Simulator Teaches Dangers of Distracted Driving

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TOBYHANNA TOWNSHIP -- Authorities in the Poconos tried to give students the experience of what it's like being distracted behind the wheel.

Considering that texting while driving is now the leading cause of deaths among teenagers, these were life lessons.

We all know driving drunk is dangerous and deadly, but driving with other distractions can be just as dangerous.

Students from Pocono Mountain West High School experienced both situations behind the wheel on Monday.

Students gripping the steering wheels at Pocono Mountain West High School had some rough rides ahead of them, learning some important lessons through driving simulators.

"It's to show students there's consequences to driving distracted or driving impaired," explained trauma prevention coordinator Bill McQuilken.

Officials with the Lehigh Valley Health Network guided about 200 students through distracted and impaired driving courses.

"It's kind of crazy doing the simulator," said senior Joshua Padmore. "You think it's easy until you step right into it."

Padmore made a right-hand turn right into a pedestrian. The simulated consequence: homicide by vehicle charges, all because of distractions.

"When you do this in the real life, there's real people like that will still try to go before you, even though you have the right of way, or pedestrians that aren't paying attention, because they could possibly be texting themselves."

The simulator offers students a lot of distractions and encourages them to text and drive, or call their friends, but they don't have to necessarily do that while they're behind the wheel.

Some student's couldn't resist, while many others avoided the urge to text.

"They see that phone come up and they say, 'Oh, I don't want to do that.' Well, that's a good habit their parents are teaching them that hopefully they will carry over when they're driving on the road," McQuilken said.

Sophomore Theresa Conte takes her learner's permit test soon.

"I'm not one to take distractions not seriously, because I think it's a big thing to not text and drive and always wear a seatbelt and stuff," Conte said.

After a few swerves, she finished the course more aware than ever of dangers on the road.

"Now I'm more aware that they're more present than I thought they were going to be," she said.

The Lehigh Valley Health Network offers this driving simulator course free to schools throughout our region, and they're hoping to run more programs in the Poconos to help more young drivers before they hit the road.