Students learn dangers of distracted driving

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Caitlin Lyons looked down at her cellphone to text a friend and when she looked back up at the road, she was closing in on another car. She tried to hit the brakes, but it was too late.
Luckily, she was only in a simulator.
Representatives from AT&T brought a driving simulator to Tupelo High School on Friday to show students the dangers of texting while driving.
“The student gets in and puts the (headset) on and actually steps on the gas and brakes to drive the car,” said Gunner Goad, regional director of external affairs for AT&T. “The instructor says, Alright, go ahead and text, ‘I’m going to the grocery store,’ and at the end it shows you’ve had this many wrecks or killed this many people. The idea is to let them know texting while driving is dangerous.”
Caitlin, a sophomore at Tupelo High School, said she went into the simulator knowing she can’t text and drive.
“It’s hard,” she said. “I know I’m not a multi-tasker. I cannot text and drive so I try to put my phone in the console.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that in 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and an estimated 416,000 were injured in a motor vehicle crash involving a distracted driver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 1,228 people died from accidents involving drunken drivers the same year.
State Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, sponsored legislation this year banning texting while driving but the bill was never brought out of committee.
She has pledged to introduce the bill again this year.
Rep. Brian Aldridge, R-Tupelo, said thanks to programs like this and commercials that show how dangerous texting and driving can be, he has almost completely stopped texting in the car.
“We’re going to continue exploring the idea,” he said concerning stronger texting legislation.
Tupelo High School senior Blake Culver said he is going to completely stop texting while driving. In the simulator, he was going 60 mph but didn’t realize he had crashed.
jb.clark@journalinc.com