New distracted driving simulator to help Upstate teach teens to stay safe on the road

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,450 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2016. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of a fatal crash.  A distracted driving simulator purchased by the Upstate Foundation for the Upstate Trauma Center will give teens the chance to see the impact of losing focus behind the wheel before it’s too late.

The distracted driving simulator will enhance Upstate’s Let’s Not Meet by Accident injury prevention program conducted by the Upstate Trauma Center. Directed toward high school teenagers, the program offers a sobering look at the dangers of all forms of distracted and impaired driving. The Let’s Not Meet by Accident program and simulator will travel to high schools, BOCES and community events throughout the region.

“The Upstate Foundation understands that distracted driving is one of the top five reasons for motor vehicle crashes among teens which, fortunately, can be prevented. The Foundation has responded to help reduce teen accidents by supporting educational programs like Let’s Not Meet by Accident,” said Eileen Pezzi, vice president for development at Upstate.

The hospital’s Trauma Services Department has been educating high school teenagers on the harsh realities of decision making behind the wheel of a car for over 20 years. With the addition of the Drive Square Simulation System and its advanced technology, students can now safely experience the perils and consequences of drunk, drugged and distracted driving on a virtual road while operating the controls of a real vehicle.

The simulator works by driving a car onto a pair of turn plates. Simulator sensors are attached to the steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, and other controls. The vehicle never moves off the turn plates. The simulator’s portable computer generates a high-definition view of road and terrain that the student sees through virtual reality goggles.

“The distracted driving simulator is a powerfully persuasive educational tool,” said Kim Nasby, RN, Upstate trauma injury prevention coordinator. “There’s no doubt that teens are addicted to their phones and think they’re invincible—a potentially deadly combination. The simulator is a safe way to demonstrate that they’re not. The Trauma Services Department is sincerely grateful to the Upstate Foundation for making it possible for us to purchase the driving simulator.”

Caption: Sitting behind the wheel, Jerry Morrison, RN, trauma outreach and education coordinator, demonstrates the distracted driver device, as Eileen Pezzi, vice president for development, left, and Kim Nasby, RN, trauma injury prevention coordinator, look on.

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