As growing teens in high school, many students find excitement in being able to test for their drivers license and finally be able to drive a car. In the midst of this excitement, students can sometimes forget about the dangers of distracted driving, no matter the form it takes. When behind the wheel, even the slightest distraction, such as checking a text message, can have great consequences. The dangers of distracted driving are constantly being brought to the attention of young drivers, which is why the Arrive Alive Tour visited Santa Maria High School on Friday, February 2nd, to discuss the responsibility young drivers have when on the road. With a simulation using VR goggles, creating the feeling of real-world driving, students had the opportunity to participate in predetermined events that illustrated the cost of distracted driving.
Two of the most common forms of distracted driving are in the form of cell phone use and driving while under the influence. The Arrive Alive Tour gave students the opportunity to experience one of these forms through the use of VR technology. Students had the choice of either driving with impaired vision, similar to that of driving under the influence, or driving casually, then being instructed to send a random text message. While the student driving was distracted, other students spectating the scene could see what was happening on the road. The driver would be stopped after various events had occurred, such as swerving in and out of lanes, or obstructing the flow of traffic by driving too slow or too fast. The main idea behind the simulation was to show both spectators and those driving what can happen when the eyes of a driver, perhaps their most useful tools, are distracted with other activities. One of the sponsors of the Arrive Alive Tour, Jessica, was present at the event and spoke about the goal of the simulation, saying, “The goal is to bring educational awareness to distracted driving. We thought bringing in Arrive Alive would be a great idea because we’ve used it [many] times before, and the kids seem to really like it and are receptive to it.” Being able to put students in fixed situations without putting them in real danger was something Arrive Alive stressed heavily, as the experience brings the concern of impaired driving to life in a unique way. Jessica added, “We really like it because it’s a real-life experience for them, but just in virtual reality. We hope to change some behavior and students will really think about the dangers of distracted driving.” Schools outside of Santa Maria High School are also getting involved, as Jessica mentioned working with various other schools, saying, “We have worked with Pioneer Valley and Righetti, and the experiences were really great there as well. Usually juniors and seniors are the ones who show up, mainly because those are the [students] driving. On Wednesday, we had freshman, and that was really exciting because those are the students thinking about driving and getting their license. It’s really nice to think about that population too because they’re starting to think, ‘What’s going to happen when I’m starting to drive?’” The Arrive Alive Tour has already made significant moves bringing VR technology to the table, and now extending their reach to young high school students has spread their important message.
Whether it is seniors taking the road for the first time, or freshman thinking about the day they receive their license, drivers of all ages should be aware of their surroundings and stay safe. Following the traffic rules ensures that all drivers and pedestrians remain safe and can maneuver freely. With the help of the powerful message spread by Arrive Alive, we can all work together to keep driving a safe activity.