We have previously written about the high rate of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities here in New York City. A major cause of these accidents is distracted driving. Texting while driving has been banned in most states, and safety awareness campaigns have made it clear that distracted driving is very dangerous. So why do drivers continue to engage in distracting behaviors behind the wheel?
In many cases, drivers do it because they have a false sense of how good they are at multitasking while driving. These drivers recognize that distracted driving is dangerous, but only so for everyone else. They are the exception to the rule. It should come as no surprise that this attitude is common among teen drivers, who grew up with cellphones and who often have a difficult time predicting the consequences of their risky behaviors.
So how do we convince teen drivers (and other drivers, for that matter) that distracted driving is dangerous? Some teens learn the lesson the hard way after striking and sometimes killing a pedestrian. But in this case, experiential learning should only take place in an environment where no one actually needs to get hurt.
Driving simulators may provide just such an opportunity. A recent news article tells the story of how insurance company Allstate brought a driving simulator to a college campus in Michigan. Students had a chance to virtually get behind the wheel and find out just how good or bad their distracted driving skills were.
One student’s response was similar to things others said. During her simulated test drive, she struck a child pedestrian. Afterwards, she said: “I did horrible. I used to think I was pretty good at texting and driving … this just changed my perspective on it.”
Hopefully, more young drivers will get to have a virtual driving experience like this in years to come. Texting and other distracted driving behaviors are far more dangerous than most people realize. And we cannot afford to let that lesson be learned on real streets with real accident victims.
Source: CBS Detroit, “‘I Used To Think I Was Pretty Good At Texting And Driving,’ Said Student Using Driving Simulator, Striking Pedestrian,” Sandra McNeill, Oct. 1, 2014