New texting and driving simulator shows horrifying dangers of distracted driving

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Texting and driving simulator shows dangers of distracted driving
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Tim Fleischer has the story on the new simulator, and even tries it out for himself.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Drivers, teenagers, and parents across the US have all heard the warnings: Don't text and drive. But there is now a new way to convince you and other teenage drivers on the dangers of texting and driving, using virtual reality to show the real dangers.

Texting while driving could be the biggest scare of your life, or it could cost you your life.

Through a unique 3-D virtual reality simulator, you strap on a pair of goggles and off you drive, except there is a catch. During your experience, you encounter near misses with bicyclists and pedestrians, and close calls with other drivers. This is all while trying to send text messages and driving at the same time.

Check out the 360 video here (but note that you need to use Chrome or Firefox for the 360 experience):

Ian Katsnelson is a student driver who has tested the simulator, and has also just started driving.

"I think it's very important for us to have a first-hand experience in using technology to show us what the dangers are," he said.

They want to drive home the message "it can wait."

"We've heard too many stories of people being injured or dying as a result of three words and a text, which could have waited," said president of the AT&T New York State office Marissa Shorenstein. "So we are out here to educate as many people as we can."

AT&T has partnered with the NYPD and the NYC Department of Transportation, bringing the simulator and the jarring virtual experience to the Flatiron Plaza for everyone to try.

"To get them in a place like this, behind a simulator, which feels like something the would do anyway like a game, it really brings home the dangers," Shorenstein said.

In addition, the simulator "pit stop" raises awareness for AAA's 100 Deadliest Days for Drivers - the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen crash fatalities historically climb.

And since it is available online, even you can participate in it.

"Using this kind of technology really helps communicate with teenagers," Katsnelson said.

Here in the city, where vehicles and pedestrians are dangerously intermingled, the Department of Transportation is a valued partner in the program.

"Even if you're driving casually that you take your responsibility behind the wheel seriously," said Assistant Commissioner of Education and Outreach Kim Wiley-Schwartz. "We need people to be alert, aware, and not distracted."