Students at Napoleon High School recently had the opportunity to participate in a distracted driving simulator offered by the PEERS Foundation.

Julie Piotrowski, one of three individuals from the PEERS Foundation who traveled to Napoleon, explained the Augmented Reality Distracted Driving Education Simulator (ARDDES) teaches teens about the dangers of distracted driving. According to the foundation, distracted driving is the number one cause of fatalities for those ages 16 to 29.

The presentation started with a brief introduction about distracted driving, followed by a public service announcement voiced by an individual whose brother was killed when they were involved in a crash caused by a distracted driver who rear-ended their vehicle. Students are asked to sign a pledge that they won’t text and drive and will also hold their friends accountable to the same standard.

Students can participate in the simulation after taking a brief survey. A vehicle is hooked up to sensors and remains stationary as students get behind the wheel and put on a headset that projects a virtual city onto the windows in the vehicle. As they navigate through the virtual city, they are asked to perform various tasks on a cell phone — texting, using a GPS app, taking a selfie or posting to social media.

As they are “driving” and trying to complete the tasks on their phone, they encounter scenarios such as a bike rider drifting into their lane, pedestrians crossing in front of them or other vehicles running red lights which oftentimes lead to virtual crashes. After the simulation, the students are asked to fill out a brief survey about the experience.

“It takes five seconds to pick up the phone and text,” Piotrowski said. “At 55 miles per hour ... you will travel the length of a football field without looking at the road.

“We want to show them how many things can happen in that time,” she continued. “We want them to see there are big repercussions from it.”

According to NHS Principal Ryan Wilde, Napoleon’s school resource officer, Brad Strickland, applied for a grant to fund the experience.

E-mail comments to jenl@northwestsignal.net.

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