Driving simulator shows dangers of drinking, texting behind wheel
By Graig Graziosi
The student driver, peering through blurred vision, threw her hands up in resignation as her car plowed into the back of a parked city bus.
Luckily for the driver, the crash was a part of a virtual driving simulator recently purchased by the Campbell school district and the city of Campbell.
The simulator – located in the library of Campbell Memorial High School – is meant to help educate students on the hazards of impaired and distracted driving and also provide a safe environment for students to practice aspects of driving.
Students using the simulator sit in a mock driver’s seat, complete with a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals and a wide-screen monitor that mimics the view from behind a windshield.
Campbell Police Chief Dennis Puskarcik said he became aware of the simulator after meeting Dom Tiberi, a media personality from Columbus whose daughter died in a distracted driving accident in 2013 and who now advocates for better driving education for young people.
Puskarcik pitched the idea of the simulator to the Campbell school board and the city, and the entities agreed to purchase the $13,000 system.
“If it means saving even one life, I think the $13,000 is a worthy investment,” Puskarcik said. The simulator was paid for in part by donations from city residents.
The simulator includes almost 50 miles of virtual road and currently runs three “lessons” – a driving practice scenario, an impaired-driving scenario that simulates drunken driving and a distracted-driving scenario that prompts drivers to try to text while they drive – but additional lessons can be added to the program.
Deena Diamandis, 17, attempted the distracted-driving scenario.
“It’s realistic because it does distract you while you’re trying to send the text message,” she said. “I like this because my driving test was really simple, but this lets me drive under specific situations that I couldn’t in real life.”
On the wall next to the simulator are posters promoting safe driving practices, all designed by Brad Yeager, school principal. He was pleased with the partnership between the city and the school, and hoped the tool would aid in keeping young drivers safe on the road.
“This approach lets the students learn from real situations they can experience while driving,” Yeager said. “When it comes to keeping our students safe, I’d much rather be proactive than reactive.”