PDT Staff Writer
LUCASVILLE — As a part of a statewide educational campaign, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has brought a distracted driving simulator to their booth at the Scioto County Fair.
“This is a teaching and safety tool. We want people to understand the dangers of of distracted and impaired driving. We call it distracted driving when we talk about using a cellphone, eating in your car, or listening to the radio can be considered a distraction,” said Kathleen Fuller, ODOT District 9 spokesperson. “When we talk about impairment we usually think of drugs or alcohol, being under the influence.”
One of the simulations has a driver texting and using a cell phone while driving.
A law recently went into effect prohibiting Ohio from using, “a handheld electronic communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication.” The bill also prohibits anyone under the age of 18, from using their cell phone or sending text messages while driving.
“Distracted driving is dangerous and has grave consequences,” ODOT Director Jerry Wray said in a released statement. “In particular, cell phone use while driving is very risky and our new simulator tour will show Ohioans the real dangers and consequences of distracted driving.”
According to ODOT, in 2010, law enforcement agencies reported 39 fatalities, 454 serious injuries and 12,410 crashes that were attributed specifically to distracted driving. Crashes cost Ohio nearly $13 billion a year. About 38 percent of all serious injuries in Ohio occur at intersections. About 40 percent of all fatalities involve motorists who hit fixed objects such as trees and utility poles.
The department said the Distracted Driver Simulator is part of the departments roadway safety campaign “Every Move You Make, Keep It Safe” which aims to educate Ohioans on how to use the roads safely – whether behind the wheel, behind the handlebars or on foot
Fuller said ODOT’s safety campaign,’Every move you make keep it safe,’ is linked to Ohio’s overall goal of reducing roadway fatalities 5 percent by 2015. With nearly 300,000 crashes across Ohio in 2010 and more than 1,000 deaths, meeting the goal would help save 150 lives.
“Through this simulator we want to try to encourage and promote safety every step we can, along the way. If we can use this as a teaching tool to remind our young people on the dangers of distracted driving. Hopefully we are getting them to think before they do anything that could endanger themselves or others,” Fuller said. “As a part of the simulation as a driver you can be pulled over or cause an accident. The driver is then taken through various scenarios including a roadside sobriety test, arrest, going to jail, being sentenced and various others. I’ve watched some young teenagers using the simulator. At first they feel it’s a little bit silly, then they realize the realities of what they are doing. This has been a good learning process for them. They realize that even though it’s not real life, it does provide a good simulation of what it’s like to be driving impaired.”
Fuller said the simulator will be at the ODOT booth at Scioto County Fair through Saturday evening. She said ODOT has two distracted driving simulators for use throughout the state, showing the realities of impaired or distracted driving. She said the response to the simulators has been positive throughout the state.
“We are trying to take this to as many places as we can, targeting young drivers, new drivers, teenage drivers among others,” Fuller said.
After the school year starts, she will be trying to schedule the simulator into area schools.
“It’s been hard trying to schedule the simulators in as many places as we can because of its popularity,” Fuller said.
Fuller said ODOT has established a website for groups and organizations wanting to schedule one of the simulators, www.everymove.ohio.gov.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or firstname.lastname@example.org.