Texting While Driving Simulator Visits Penn State Wilkes-Barre Campus

It was another stop on the Arrive Alive Tour, as the texting while driving simulator was brought to the campus of Penn State Wilkes-Barre. The students enjoyed their time learning more about the dangers of texting and driving, as well as drinking while driving. Here is a story from The Citizen’s Voice in Wilkes-Barre:

My morning drive started out all right — until I had seven “drinks” before 10 a.m. and crashed into either the curb or another car — I couldn’t really tell which.

Made it out without a scratch though, and so did my car — once I removed the virtual reality headset that had allowed me to experience how driving drunk might feel.

The Arrive Alive tour, a simulator that aims to caution people against drinking or texting while driving, spent the day at Penn State Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, inviting students and curious reporters to take a spin behind the wheel of a black Jeep and a virtual simulation.

Rachel Olszewski of the university’s strategic communications office said the event helps participants better understand the consequences of drunk or distracted driving.

“I’m guilty of it,” Olszewski admitted of texting while driving. “The Arrive Alive really helps you see the ramifications.”

Jackie Warnick-Piatt of the student activities department said students would come try the simulator all day, and the tour stayed on campus until 3:30 p.m. She hoped the experience would make students and drivers think twice before reaching for their phones or getting behind the wheel after a few drinks.

“It bothers me personally … because I know three young people who have passed from texting and driving,” she said.

In the simulation, I drove through a city that could easily have been Wilkes-Barre. I had to “drive” the car to a party, then leave after consuming seven drinks in the virtual world that surrounded me.

As soon as I tried to leave the party, the simulated city blurred around me. Having never needed glasses or contacts, I had no way to prepare for how little I could see. I could make out shapes, colors and basic outlines enough to tell that a light I was approaching had turned red, but in my blurry, bleary virtual state I grossly misjudged how close I was to it and slammed on the brakes, stopping the car about ten feet before the actual stop line.

Was I in both lanes? I might have stopped in both lanes.

My virtual vision worsened as I took the car away from the light. With what I thought was just a tap on the steering wheel, I swerved from lane to empty lane until I finally “crashed” into another car parked near the curb as I tried to straighten my car out.

A splintered windshield was the last thing I saw before removing the headset. The Arrive Alive staff handed me a “DUI citation” as I climbed out of the car — I had a blood alcohol content of 0.15 in the simulation and was cited for swerving, driving below the speed limit and, of course, a collision in the less than two minutes I spent behind the virtual wheel.

Penn State freshman Veronica Smith of Kingston tried both the drunk and distracted driving courses. She had six drinks before leaving the simulated party — after about 30 seconds her simulation showed only the cracked windshield I had seen.

“I already hit a car,” she said.

In the distracted driving simulation, Smith drove for a short distance before she had to text a friend “Did you see the rainbow horse at the farm?”

She peered down her nose, past the headset to her phone and tried to type in a few letters. Her hand jerked on the wheel and she swerved, her virtual vehicle ramming into trees on the side of the road.

“They were both pretty bad, I crashed instantly in both. That did not go well,” Smith said.

Smith said she avoids driving drunk or distracted.

“I usually have someone in the passenger seat and they have my phone, I never have my phone while I’m driving,” she said. “And I don’t drink.”

Bring the Arrive Alive Tour to your area. For more information or details on the drinking and texting while driving simulator program, contact us here!