Simulator tests distracted drivers - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/26/10

Simulator tests distracted drivers

By Ann Wyatt Little - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – On the South Plains more than 5,000 people have signed the B.U.S.T pledge to buckle up and stop texting. Each time a teen hits the road their parents aren't always there to track their every move or mistake, especially if they text and drive. There is one high tech device that is helping to do just that.

The driving simulator at Covenant NeuroScience Institute was originally designed as a therapy tool for stroke patients, but is now open to the public. KCBD NewsChannel 11 asked two Lubbock High students to sit behind the wheel and try to text.

This car runs on a hard drive, equipped with rear view mirrors, a seat belt and a mouse the state of the art 3 screen simulator doesn't write tickets but is programmed to be your toughest critic.

"Everything is pretty real and true to life," says Covenant Occupational Therapist Shaun Fant who shows LHS Olivia Thornton and Brickland Easton how the simulator works. He set it up the driving conditions to include lots of sun so there would be no visibility issues. Both Thornton and Easton took the simulator for a test spin before adding a distraction to the course, their cell phones.

Thornton buckles in and within two minutes her drive comes to a crashing stop. She swerves, jumps the curb and slams into another car. She racks up multiple violations, including 26 improper lane changes.

"It's harder than you think. I didn't do very well and almost knocked that car off the road," says Thornton. On the city streets course she takes advantage of the red lights to send messages, but she drives almost 25 miles below the speed limit creating a danger for other drivers.

Easton buckles in and drives for 36 seconds before crashing. He gets back on the road and three minutes later he wrecks again. So how would Fant grade the two?

"I think both passed without texting. They did what I expected with their phones they failed, failed miserably," says Fant.

It's a proven distraction. Statistics show nearly one third of teens text behind the wheel. No one was hurt in these crashes, but it's a different story out on the road.

"It makes you think twice about texting. It lets you see the mistakes you're making," says Thornton. "I sat in the simulator and so did Olivia. It's something you physically can't do, you can't focus on both," says Easton.

A one hour session for teens is $25; a 3-hour session for elderly or questionable drivers is $380.

The driving simulator is located in the NeuroScience Institute at 3610 22nd St. To set up an appointment, call 806.725.0999.

 ©2010 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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