Local High School Students Experience the Dangers of Distracted Driving With Help From a Virtual Reality Simulator

Published : Tuesday, November 7, 2017 | 10:20 PM

Dozens of Pasadena high school students went behind the wheel in a virtual world Monday morning to experience first-hand the dangers of smartphone use while driving.

The interactive virtual reality simulator is a part of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” Campaign tour, which will visit more than 50 schools and communities in California to help raise awareness about smartphone distracted driving and help keep our community and roadway safe.

“We’re reminding everybody not to give away the only life you have for a text, a post, a snap, or email,” said It Can Wait spokesperson Chris Johnson. “Every message you get — it can wait,” Johnson added.

The virtual reality simulator is just one tool in AT&T’s “It Can Wait” Campaign and is the most popular in helping show first hand the dangers of smartphone distracted driving through an immersive virtual reality experience.

Monday’s presentation marks the third year John Muir High School has hosted the event as a way to educate Pasadena’s young drivers about keeping their eyes off the screen and on the road.

‘We teach them here in a safe environment where they can then walk away and spread our message with somebody they love and tell them also to not text and drive,” said Johnson.

The virtual experience takes the user on a 3 minute journey behind the wheel of a driver who is constantly fiddling with their smartphone and dodging close-call collisions, that is, until an inevitable crash takes place.

Students took turns sitting in the golf cart-sized simulator that is equipped with a steering wheel, foot pedals, and the virtual reality mask that gives the user a 360 degree view of the simulated world.

“We all know that we shouldn’t do it, but a lot of the times, that temptation when you hear it ‘ding’, it’s tempting. The whole time you’re watching this person text and drive, but you can’t stop them. It’s a build-up to the end where you eventually get into an accident,” explained Johnson.

The series of driving sequences take the students throughout neighborhoods, along school zones, onto the busy highways, and more.

Eventually, the scenario is that the driver gets killed and he kind of sees himself floating up to heaven in the accident,” said Donovan Green, External Affairs Regional Director for AT&T.

“This really gets the attention and gets our message across about distracted driving and the dangers of it,” Green added.

According to Johnson, distracted driving is an epidemic in the United States where as many as 7 in 10 people engage in smartphone activities while driving, according to a report.

Nearly four in ten accidents occur while using social media, almost three in 10 surf the net and one in ten video chat, according to Johnson, who says that some drivers are even taking selfies while behind the wheel.

“It’s very effective. In a few minutes, people are having that epiphany that their whole life isn’t worth a glance,” said Johnson.

Students received specialized cardboard virtual reality masks that are compatible with smartphones and can be used to show AT&T’s digital experience at home or on-the-go.

The campaign’s webpage provides resources about the dangers of distracted driving and includes short documentaries that tell real-life stories about the often devastating effects of surviving a preventable auto accident.

For more information, visit www.itcanwait.com/.





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