Webster University students crowded around a red Nissan Versa and watched while a student got behind the wheel of a car and simulated what many young adults try to do: texting while driving.
PEERS (Professionals Encouraging Education Reform Statewide) Awareness visited Webster on Wednesday, Aug. 29 during the Involvement Fair. Robert Tower, road manager for PEERS Awareness, said the program is all about health and wellness.
“We’re bringing awareness to the dangers of texting and driving and we do drunk driving, too,” Tower said. “So basically heightening more of the awareness of the situation you’re putting yourself into.”
PEERS Awareness visits high schools and colleges/universities around the country educating students about the risk of texting while driving. Before Nov. 20 of this year, PEERS Awareness will hit at least 25 states.
The texting-while-driving simulator is a recent addition to PEERS Awareness’ program.
“It was just developed in the office not even a month ago,” Tower said. “We just got the patent for it, so nobody has this program except for us.”
Before attempting the simulator, PEERS Awareness asked the participants to sign a pledge promising they will not text and drive. The pledge is turned into the school at the end of the day. The school will then make a copy so PEERS Awareness can see the attendance of students who participated.
The simulator has 52 different scenarios with different driving environments that include the city, the country and the suburbs. The simulator also has scenarios of places in the desert and Europe.
“Since a lot of colleges are international, if they’re from Europe, we’ve actually got scenarios from overseas,” Tower said.
After the participant gets into the car, they put on a headset with a viewscreen that shows the scenario. The participant controls the gas, the brakes and the steering wheel. Other people can see on a TV screen how the participant is driving and statistics of his or her performance. At the beginning of the simulator, the speed limit is always posted. When asked what the speed limit was, the majority of the participants did not know or remember, according to Tower. On another TV screen, there are videos of actual news coverage and reenactments of accidents that have happened because of texting while driving.
Lea Herdler, sophomore vocal performance major, said she wanted people to see the dangers of texting while driving.
“There’s so many things that can happen while you’re on the road,” Herdler said. “In my simulation, a truck pulled in front of me. Not watching or anything. If you’re not paying attention, something like that can happen.”
Eliminating texting while driving is important to Herdler because her sister was a victim of a texting-while-driving accident.
“My sister got hit by a woman that was texting and driving and ran straight through a red light and hit her — totaled the car,” Herdler said. “She actually got brain trauma from it. She’s still in recovery and that was months ago.”
Tower said that no matter how important the text is, it can wait. Jasmine Turner, freshman spanish major, said she couldn’t agree more.
“I hope they learn it can wait,” Turner said. “I mean, unless you’re driving 15 hours somewhere, you can wait until you stop or get out of the car to send your text.”
Tower wants students to realize that their life is important and that you should take extra precaution when you’re on the road.
“Life’s not as long as people like to think,” Tower said. “It just takes that one split second and it’s over. It’s done. You should just basically watch yourself when you’re out and about because it’s just not worth it. It’s not worth it at all.”