Radford High School students learned first-hand how dangerous it is to be texting or under the influence while driving.
Drive Smart Virginia, a non-profit aimed at teaching teenagers the importance of safe driving, was invited to the school recently by the Radford Sheriff’s Office to teach students in an interactive manner what can happen if they choose to drive drunk or distracted.
The first activity required students to put on “drunk goggles” that distort visual balancing cues (similar to the effects of alcohol) while trying to navigate a traffic-cone course on an oversized tricycle.
RHS sophomore, Shawn Bias, was the first student in his class to attempt the exercise, which he said was more difficult than he anticipated.
“It really distorted my depth perception,” he said. “It was hard to see straight, let alone weave in and out of the cones.”
According to a news release from Drive Smart Virginia, 76 people died and nearly 10,000 people were injured in crashes involving teen drivers last year, and teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group.
Sheriff Mark Armentrout, who was on-site for much of the day, said that the goggles simulate a 0.12-0.15 blood alcohol concentration, well over the 0.02 legal limit for minors (0.08 for those 21 and over).
“The goggles only simulate the vision impairment, not the total effect of the effects on the central nervous system, such as impaired thought and reaction time,” Armentrout wrote in an email. “It was very eye opening for the students—many of whom swore off drinking forever.”
The other activity allowed students to get behind the wheel of an actual automobile using a virtual reality simulator where students drove through town while texting on their cellphones.
Kristin Pettway of Drive Smart Virginia said that many kids are confident before attempting the course.
“I don’t know why that is,” she said. “Almost every kid comes out of it saying it was a lot harder than they thought it would be. You just hope that it is resonating with them.”
Pettway said that the organization visits approximately 30 schools a year, and 96 percent of students surveyed say they would recommend the course to their peers.
Armentrout said that over 100 students were able to participate in the exercises and he hopes to have it become an annual event.
“All of the kids were very enthusiastic about the simulator,” he said. “I think they walked away with a better understanding of how quickly an accident can happen.”
There was no cost to the sheriff’s office or school system as Roger Allen’s State Farm branch sponsored the event.
For more information about Drive Smart Virginia, visit www.drivesmartva.org.