Texting and Driving

Wallace State Police Officer and criminal justice instructor Brandi Parker tries to send a text while driving as part of the UNITE Arrive Alive Tour that was on the school’s campus Wednesday.

Wallace State Community College students got a first-hand experience with the dangers of distracted driving and driving under the influence Wednesday when the UNITE Arrive Alive Tour made a visit to the school’s student center.

A virtual reality simulator let students get behind the wheel of a car and see the effects of driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence of marijuana or driving while texting. After going through the simulation, the students got a mock citation that detailed some of the traffic laws that they broke and featured some statistics about the dangers of distracted driving or driving under the influence.

Simulator operator Kent Tiedman said the Arrive Alive Tour travels to schools around the country to increase the awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and drinking and driving.

He said the event is always popular at schools, as it only takes a few minutes for a student to stop by and go through the simulator while getting a real experience of the dangers.

“They’re usually surprised about how hard it actually is,” he said. 

Wallace State Community College student Molly Raisensen tries to drive under the influence with the Arrive Alive Tour's virtual reality simulator.

After going through the simulation, students then completed a survey about their experiences, and that information will be sent back to Wallace State so they can gauge the attitudes of the students, Tiedman said.

“We give the results back to the school so they get a feeling of how the students feel about driving while impaired or texting and driving,” he said.

Whit Rice, Wallace State’s Student Government Association sponsor, said Wednesday’s visit from the Arrive Alive Tour was the first time that a simulator like that had come to the school, and the SGA felt that the school’s students could learn from it.

“Anything we can do the raise awareness, we feel, is beneficial,” he said. 

Whit said the simulator lets the students have some fun while trying not to crash, but it also lets them see some of the dangers of driving drunk or driving and texting while in a safe environment.

“These are the kinds of lessons you want to learn, where you can laugh when it’s over with,” he said. “It’s much better than teaching them the hard way.”

Tyler Hanes can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 138.

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