Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Road Hazards

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Road Hazards

Article excerpt

PARAMUS - They swerved into the shoulders of roads and highways and across double yellow lines, narrowly missing oncoming traffic.

But more often than not, the students at Paramus High School - driving a simulator while being forced to answer numerous text messages - slammed into cars, trucks, roadway signs and even buildings.

The distracted-driving simulators allowed approximately 320 juniors at the high school Wednesday morning to see and experience the often dangerous realities of texting and driving. The event was sponsored by The Valley Hospital and run by the Save a Life Tour, a national program that educates students on distracted driving.

There were two monitors set up in the high school's gym that had steering wheels, accelerators and brake pedals, and other normal car controls attached to them. Each car also had an iPhone hooked up to it that would send the drivers -- steering through a simulated scene like nighttime in an urban area or daytime out in the country - text messages as they tried to steer down the road and through intersections. The audience could watch their peers take on the challenge, as their monitors were projected on a large screen.

Once a car "crashed" into something, shattered glass appeared on the monitor and images of destroyed cars displayed on the screens.

"It's so dangerous because your eyes aren't on the road and your focus is on something else other than driving," said 16-year-old Taylor Kellenberger, who has a permit.

During her turn on the simulator, Kellenberger slammed into a firetruck while going through an intersection and trying to answer a text.

In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distracted-driving crashes across the country, and 71 percent of teens and young people say they have composed or sent texts while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

After completing the simulation - whether they crashed or not - the students signed a pledge to not text and drive on cards and a banner that will be hung up in the school.

Brenda Hall, a 16-year-old who has her permit, crashed after her simulated car swerved over the center double yellow lines. Hall was in a car accident in January, when a driver rear-ended the car she was riding in with her mother, who was driving. …

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