Students from Penn State York hit the highways and suburban roadways Wednesday afternoon. They also hit stop signs, storefronts, buses and parked vehicles. “That’s why I don’t text while driving!” Natia Jones, 20, of York, said after navigating into the opposite lane and overcorrecting across a front lawn before crashing into a road sign. The repeated crashes were all part of a texting-and-driving simulation brought to campus by the student programming board. The simulators, provided by Kramer Entertainment Inc., have been touring the country for about a month as part of the company’s Save a Life Tour, which also includes a drinking-and-driving simulator.
Two simulators were brought Wednesday to Penn State York as part of the national Save A Life Tour. Each simulator was like a driving video game, but
Two simulators were brought Wednesday to Penn State York as part of the national Save A Life Tour. Each simulator was like a driving video game, but participants received text messages on an attached iTouch and had to respond while ‘driving.’ (Daily Record/Sunday News – Kate Penn)
Participants sat in front of a screen that displayed the road. Settings for the simulation included cities, suburbs, open highways and country roads in both sunny and snowy conditions. While operating the steering wheel and gas and brake pedals, they had to respond to texts on an iTouch. Within minutes of starting, they received texts such as “what are you doing?” and “what is your favorite color?” “You could be 100 feet away from a car, take your eyes away for one second, and that car is right in front of you,” said Sean Medina, a tour technician. According to a AAA survey, 88 percent of drivers think other drivers’ text messaging and emailing could be a serious threat to their safety. In studies, drivers on their cellphones also show slower reaction times than drunken drivers, according to the tour. Drivers on their cellphones also make more driving errors than drivers talking to passengers. “They’re physically watching themselves go all over the road,” said Andrew Tipton, tour manager, of why the program is effective. “It just shows you how many distractions there are when you’re driving,” said Matt Bortner, 18, of Hanover. Bortner completed the virtual course without hitting anything, but he had a few close calls with a red BMW. He said he tries to text while driving as little as possible. Most of the students admitted to texting while driving at least occasionally. “Not all the time. I try to keep it down as much as possible,” said Reggie Scott, 21, of Baltimore. The goal of the simulators is to make students think before they text and drive. “I definitely think they’ll think again, because it helps you visualize (the outcome),” Scott said. “It was really realistic,” said Jones, who ended another turn at the wheel by crashing into a bus. “They show you real images of what can happen.” After each “wreck,” images from actual car crashes were displayed with facts about driving while distracted. The program also used TV screens to display additional facts and videos. “Accidents happen. But if you’re going to get in an accident when you’re watching, what’s going to happen when you’re not watching the road?” Medina said.

Legislation

Since 2007, State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-West Manchester, has repeatedly tried to get legislation passed in the state Legislature that would make it illegal to text while driving. In past sessions, the measure has made it through the House but never passed in the Senate. His current version of the bill is now in the state House’s Transportation Committee.