Kutztown students experienced first hand the consequences of texting while driving on Friday.
Driving a simulator, the student followed instructions to drive a passenger, whose voice could be heard loudly announcing he was taking off his seatbelt and asked the student to call and text his boss for him. Meanwhile, the driver must stay in the lane and avoid hitting other cars, pedestrians and animals. Often times, their multitasking led to minor accidents, and, in some cases, fatal crashes.
State Police, paramedics and judges appeared on the screen, as well as the cost figures for fines, insurance rate increases and car repairs. The simulator also calculated how long it would take to work to pay off the costs of getting in an accident.
Kutztown freshman Margaret Brooks said driving the simulator “made me realize that even just a little text message could you make you not pay attention to the road and make you swerve or hit a cat that’s crossing the road,” she said. Though not driving yet, this makes her realize when she does start driving that “I need to concentrate on the road and not on the person that’s in the car with me.”
March 21, Kutztown High School Student Council hosted the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Don’t Drive Distracted program, bringing five Distracted Driving Simulators for students to experience the dangers of texting while driving.
“We want the kids to see how dangerous it is to text while driving and how that quick distraction can really result in a terrible consequence and hopefully stop them from doing it,” said Suzanne Mixa, Student Council Adviser, who has seen texting while driving in everyday situations.
“I’ve see the kids leaving the parking lot with their eyes down looking at their phones in their laps,” she said. “It’s a serious thing that’s important we try to stop.”
Student Council vice president Kailen Moyer’s mother, Michele Moyer, and Bill McQuilken of Lehigh Valley Health Network, brought the free distracted driving simulator program to Kutztown High School.
“This program is to simulate the distractions that you might get while driving,” said Kailen, a senor. “You get a text into your phone and then you can respond, so you’re actually texting while your driving.”
Michele Moyer, mother of two Kutztown students and an RN at LVHN, was proud to bring the program to the high school and feels distracted driving education is important.
She likes that the LVHN simulators are “very realistic for the kids to see what can happen, they can obviously injure someone or injure themselves fatally or seriously if they are distracted.”
Michele hopes students learn not to text and drive, nor to be distracted in any other way, such as eating.
“The simulators were I feel very informing,” said Kutztown junior Keaton McCoach. “I think many kids don’t realize the extreme consequences that can come, even from a minor crash while texting and driving or while impaired.”
McCoach said the experience did influence him. He has had his license for about one year. “I very rarely check my phone while driving but now for sure that won’t happen at all.”
His friend Frederic Short, a junior, agreed that the simulators were realistic.
“I never realized how severe the consequences were for a minor accident while texting and driving,” said Short.
Both signed the petition banner, pledging not to text and drive.
Students also received “Texting Kills” thumb bands to wear as a reminder of this pledge. They received a handout with tips to help keep their pledge.
The day-long event was open to students during study hall and gym classes.
Alyssa Parker, member of Student Council, said the program was “the best way to simulate it without actually being in a car, driving and texting.”
Student Council President Shelby Kuchenbrod said, “We are doing this text and drive simulation to hopefully get people to realize how harmful it can be to text and drive.”
Kuchenbrod did the simulation twice. “The driving is a little sketchy, but being able to see how confusing it is to drive and text at the same time is really accurate.”
She hopes that the students who are currently driving realize that if they are texting now how harmful it can be. For those who are not driving yet, “I hope they almost get afraid to text and drive at the same time.”
McQuilken and Moyer encourage other groups and schools to participate and host the distracted driving simulators, a free program open to schools, colleges and businesses. For more information, call 610-402-CARE.