Written by Kyle Warnke
It’s virtual reality, but its proving its point; don’t drink and drive, and don’t text and drive.
Sitting in the parking lot at Central Georgia Technical College in Macon, a normal car is turned into a state-of-the-art simulator to teach students the importance of always having a designated driver, and how dangerous texting while driving can be.
The car belongs to UNITE International, a group based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Members of the organization travel across the country, visiting high school and college campuses, offering students the chance to feel what it’s really like to drive drunk or distracted.
The student is put behind the wheel of a car, but the car never moves out of its parking spot. The student puts on a pair virtual reality goggles to see the “road” in front of them, and then begins “driving” through the course. Sensors are attached to the steering wheel and the brake and gas pedals, which create the effects of what it would feel and look like if driving impaired.
Another option for the student, instead of drunk driving, is to drive and try to type a text message.
UNITE member Ryan Nelson says, the courses are designed to be a ‘worst case scenario’ for the driver. Cars are coming at the driver, people are walking across the road, and the sides of the roads are lined with things like trees.
“What happens is most kids usually end up crashing into something, or driving off the road, because of the distraction or the alcohol…It just gets that whole idea in front of them of how dangerous it is,” Nelson says.