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Students learn about distracted driving during Arrive Alive event

May 03, 2012
LITTLETON — Littleton High School hosted an event on Monday to provide first hand experience in the dangers of distracted driving. Staff from UNITE International used a driving simulator and a video to teach these important lessons.

Cynthia McLaren, Student Assistance Program Director at LHS, said that the sophomore, junior, and senior classes participated. There are approximately 180 students in those three classes.

Students on the car simulator experience the effects of drunk driving or texting while seated in an actual car. The accelerator, brakes, and steering wheel respond to a student's actions as in real life. The student sees a virtual road that includes moving cars, pedestrians, and other dangers.

Ryan Nelson, of UNITE International, noted the "positive" response from students. He said the company attempts "to get as close to real life" as possible with the simulator. The experience, Nelson said, offers perspective "without putting you on the road."

Students who completed the simulator received a "souvenir" in the form of a traffic ticket. Nelson checked off those rules of the road violated based on each student's results. Infractions on the ticket ranged from speeding to vehicular manslaughter.

Usually it did not take long for students to see the impact of their simulated impairment. Those trying the drunk driving program had the reflexes of someone legally intoxicated.

Sophomore Tricia Ford said her vision was "fuzzy" in front, and she did not have her normal peripheral vision. After her time behind the wheel, Ford's citation noted swerving and a collision.

Nelson "charged" Brandon Mason, another sophomore, with swerving and manslaughter. He hit a simulated pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Mason said the experience was "pretty cool." He views Arrive Alive as an effort to "scare us from" any type of impaired driving.

The video portion of Arrive Alive details real life experiences. Part of the story includes a 19-year-old serving time for killing two men. The driver was texting at the time of the accident.

The video also shows the results of impaired driving, with some graphic footage. Ford noted the powerful effect of this type of information.

Chief Paul Smith attended the event. He praised the "great program" that brings "hands on experience" to student participants. The Chief informed students that impairment behind the wheel is a "criminal act" now. Impairment is considered a blood alcohol level of .04.

Smith praised the students' "receptive" nature at the event. He said the "eye opening" experience is very educational. Nelson said that police department involvement is important to Arrive Alive's success.

LHS Principal Sikander Rashid said that Monday's program helps both students and the community. The school wants to do "all the right things for our kids," he said.

A new survey illustrates the national problem with distracted driving. The survey, released in mid-April, found that drivers aged 18 to 20 have the highest level of phone involvement in car accidents.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls distracted driving "an epidemic." "Our youngest drivers are particularly at risk," LaHood added.

Littleton students have a better understanding of the dangers as a result of Arrive Alive.

Additional information can be found at www.arrivealivetour.com. The recent national survey results are at www.nhtsa.gov.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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