Simulating Distracted Driving
Imagine driving down the countryside on a calm spring day, surrounded by gorgeous trees and freshly painted farms. You turn your head to the right and past the trees you see cows slowly munching on the grass. Then you start to turn your head to the left and the next thing you know you get punched in the face by a massive white airbag. After finally pushing the airbag out of your face, you see that you smashed the back of an SUV. I am guessing, though, that as horrific as this scenario sounds, you are not feeling particularly emotionally affected unless you or someone you know has experienced a similar situation firsthand. This is because you are imagining this situation, but not actually experiencing it. Of course, I would never suggest that you should purposely get into a car accident. Instead, it might be worth it for you to experience this imagined situation virtually. Luckily, companies have already developed realistic distracted driving simulators, allowing you to experience the consequences of not paying attention to the road. Thus, my solution to distracted driving is to test out requiring drivers to complete a distracted driving simulator during their driver’s license exams. Distracted driving simulators are still a relatively new educational tool, with companies such as Allstate and AT&T experimenting with their own versions. These tools range from simple videos requiring a VR headset and a smartphone in the case of AT&T’s simulator, to Allstate’s fancy Reality Rides simulator consisting of a “stationary vehicle with virtual reality LED screens across the windshield, displaying animated scenarios drivers often encounter” (“Allstate Launches Fifth Annual Reality Rides® Tour”; It Can Wait). Motor vehicle departments thus have a choice of the type of distracted driving simulator to use, perhaps even opting for a standardized version for all of them. Additional research still needs to be done on the effectiveness of distracted driving simulators. That is why I am suggesting that we start with just a few departments testing their effectiveness before rolling the program out nationwide. Nevertheless, simulators of all types are already widely used and effective in other fields. For instance, in 2015, USPS implemented a VR training simulator for drivers in Brooklyn, New York, and Tampa, Florida. They subsequently experienced a “7% reduction in accidents in New York and… reduced crashes in Tampa as well” (“U.S. Postal Service Using VR”). Altogether, we cannot go wrong with at least trying out this idea! At this point, you might be wondering why I chose this idea. A few years ago, my college sponsored a distracted driving simulator on campus. Of course, by this point, I had heard all the statistics and horror stories about the dangers of distracted driving, but it was all told to me and did not stick with me. It was not until I actually experienced crashing into a virtual vehicle while texting that the danger affected me on a deeply personal level. That feeling has stuck with me ever since, and I continue to stay focused on the road at all times. Hopefully, that feeling will stick with others who try out a simulator, potentially saving their lives one day! Works Cited “Allstate Launches Fifth Annual Reality Rides® Tour to Help Put the Brakes on Distracted Driving.” Allstate Insurance Company, 4 April 2017, https://www.allstatenewsroom.com/news/allstate-launches-fifth-annual-reality-rides-tour-to-help-put-the-brakes-on-distracted-driving/. Accessed 20 March 2018. It Can Wait. AT&T, https://www.itcanwait.com/home. Accessed 20 March 2018. “U.S. Postal Service Using VR to Train Drivers.” Trucking Info, 26 October 2017, http://www.truckinginfo.com/channel/drivers/news/story/2017/10/u-s-postal-service-using-vr-to-train-drivers.aspx. Accessed 20 March 2018.