Teens learn dangers of impaired driving

Elisa Casillas, 14, of Williams, tries to text and drive in in a Jeep simulator on Feb. 20 when the Arrive Alive Tour came to Williams High School.


A generation of kids who grew up playing video games found out that even in a simulated exercise, texting while driving or driving under the influence of alcohol are extremely dangerous activities that should never be practiced.

Dozens of Williams and Pierce High School students last week took a crack at driving distracted or drunk when the Arrive Alive Tour hit their campuses.

The program uses a real Jeep SUV with an active steering wheel, brake and accelerator, which are all linked to a computer, along with virtual reality goggles that also simulate impairment.

Students texting something as simple as “Happy Birthday,” found out exactly how difficult it is for the brain to process both activities at the same time, and students trying to drive drunk easily discovered the risk to their lives and the lives of others.

Brian Guevara, who attempted to drive impaired, received a citation that in real life could have cost him his drivers license and approximately $10,000 in fines, DUI classes, and insurance increases.

“I couldn’t control the steering wheel,” he said. “I thought it would be easier. It was weird.”

While students were driving, a video of the experience played outside the simulator for others to watch. Students watched as drivers ran red lights and slammed head on into other vehicles or off the road.

Angel Juarez, 14, who tried to text while driving, accelerated his speed unknowingly and slammed into wall. He was “dead” at the scene.

“It was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” Jurarez said after the exercise.

Another classmate managed to stay within his lane while texting, but drove 20 mph in a 55 mph zone. He received a mock cititation for just over $100.

Mallory McKenzie and Ken Tiedman have been taking the Arive Alive Tour simulator to high schools and colleges across the west coast the past month to remind young people that drivers are 23 times more likely to be in an accident if they are texting and driving, and that 64 percent of all accidents involve some form of cell phone use.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that while distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, such as eating or engaging with passengers, it is cell phone use, particularly texting and driving, that has become the most prevalent distraction.

“It’s pretty important not to engage your cell phone while on the road,” Tiedman said.

The Arrive Alive program is based in Grand Rapids, Mich, and has teams traveling with simulators across the country.

“We will be in California for another month, then we will be heading for Texas, then back toward Michigan and Minnesota,” McKenzie said.

Although students got the message that driving distracted or drunk are big problems in this country, some admitted that their own parents take such risks with their own and their children’s lives.

“I hear from students all the time, ‘I don’t know how my dad does this,’ or ‘I don’t know why my mom decides to do these thing,’ because they are genuinely surprised, especially the ones without a license,” McKenzie said. “They get an idea of what there parents are doing. I think adults and teenagers are equally bad when it comes to drinking and driving and texting and driving.”

But thanks to programs like Arrive Alive, perhaps the next generation of drivers will be better educated.

“I think (the program) is great,” said Elis Casillas, 14. “It teaches kids what not to do.”

Lizbeth Aceves, 16, has a drivers license, and said she does not engage her phone while driving. In the simulator, she also found out how hard it was to drink and drive.

“I didn’t feel like myself on the road,” she said. “Honestly, I couldn’t seem to see or focus. You’re just not yourself.”

Aceves said that using the Arive Alive simulator and the $10,000 cost she could be forced to endure has strengthened her resolve not to ever attempt to drive drunk.

“It’s not worth it,” she said. ■