Virtual simulator teaches dangers of distracted driving - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Virtual simulator teaches dangers of distracted driving

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is using virtual reality to show the dangers of distracted driving.

Officials say it claims more lives than those who drive under the influence.

Some may do certain things in the car every day without realizing it. Trooper Ronald Turley said there were many examples of "distracted driving." Turley said eating, having other people in the vehicle that are distracting you as a driver, loud music and changing CDs are prime examples.

Police say those activities are just as dangerous as texting and driving.

"Distracted driving is one of our major issues when it comes to fatalities and our injury accidents," said Turley.

Officials say in today's "on the go" society, it causes more problems.

"People are tethered to their phones, they're addicted to their phones and they're on their phones more than they need to be when they are trying to drive a car," said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Executive Director Bill Bell.

Turley said that distracted drivers are often reported as "drunk drivers" when people call to tell them about safety concerns.

Bell said just because you do not have your fingers on your phone, does not mean your sights are in the right spot.

"The number two distraction is having kids in the car," Bell said.

Bell said that is why Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials have been taking the D2 Distracted Driving simulator around the state.

"We take it out to high schools community events, corporate events, and other events where we have a captive audience," Bell said.

It's been around for eight years, but transportation officials say the need has grown in that time.

"Distracted driving is becoming a bigger problem every year," said Bell. "We think it is an epidemic."

Bell said the device was especially helpful as a demonstration for young drivers.

"We need to get the education out there, especially the younger drivers that they need to focus on the task at hand, which is driving, not adding any layers of multi-tasking to that," Bell said.

The simulator allows the driver to cruise, turn, brake and coast through life like situations. The results after the course show your reaction when your eyes are on and off the road.

"You will see your reaction time both ways," said Bell.

When tested, reporter Paige Quiggins' reaction time with a phone was one-third slower than without.

"The great thing about the simulator is that it brings home that you can't be distracted behind the wheel," said Turley.

"Because when you are looking down, texting, you can travel the length of a football field. If you are driving blindly the length of a football field, anything can happen."

While the D2 is virtual reality, officials say if you are in an actual car, you put your life and the lives of others at risk when you drive distracted.

"We have found out through our reports and fatalities that distracted driving is a major issue," Turley said.

Bell said they have had a lot of positive feedback with the device, and many people have pledged to pay attention behind the wheel after using it.

"It only takes one time for you to realize what a grave mistake you have made by texting and driving," said Bell.

Turley said the results could be deadly.

"Out of all the fatalities we have had this year, only about twenty percent were from driving under the influence," Turley said.

So Turley says they are cracking down.

"We are looking for those people who are texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving, those people who have just too many things going on in their vehicle that is causing them to be reckless or drive in a careless manor," said Turley.

He said the punishment will mean more than "GAME OVER."

"When we catch those people, we are citing them to court, and if it is in a very reckless manner, then they could even be arrested," said Turley.

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