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Simulator Drives Home Dangers of Driving While Drunk or Texting

Simulator Drives Home Dangers of Driving While Drunk or Texting photo 3/6/2018 4:11:21 p.m. - Hobbs, NM.  

[Story by Dorothy Fowler, Hobbs News Sun]

New Mexico Junior College students experienced the dangers of impaired or distracted driving Monday through the safety of a high-tech simulator.

The simulator from UNITE’s Arrive Alive Tour program was parked in the Ben Alexander Student Center on campus and stationed by the cafeteria to provide students and visitors an opportunity to try their hand at driving drunk or while texting in the safety of a vehicle that wasn’t going anywhere. People who put on the simulator glasses must navigate city streets or construction zones in a virtual reality simulation.

They come away from the experience with the idea that driving while distracted by a cell phone or driving while impaired is unsafe.

NMJC student Bibiana Moriel tried the driving course while texting.

“It was hard,” Moriel said. “I don’t really drive with my phone near me. It’s usually in my car pocket. This certainly emphasized don’t drive distracted.”

During the simulation, it’s possible to drive into one of the buildings that lined the city streets, run red-lights, collide with another vehicle or become involved in an accident that killed someone.

Participants got make-believe citations from Arrive Alive personnel.

A Hobbs-News Sun employee received a “citation” for DUI that, if that person had been convicted, would have resulted in the loss of driver’s license for at least a year. Another received one for swerving, driving below posted speed limit and driving on the incorrect side of the road.

Information provided by the make- believe citations says the drunk driver simulation involved “driving with a small amount of alcohol in your system.”

It further states, “When a person drinks any amount of alcohol, their brain function becomes impaired causing slower than normal response time. This is what causes drunk drivers to swerve between lanes.”

DeMond Thomas, coordinator of intramurals and student activities at NMJC, said the virtual ride in the simulator was the first of a number of activities planned before spring break.

“We want our students to be aware of things that could hurt them and aware of things that will help keep them healthy,” Thomas said. “We’ll be having a health fair and providing information about healthful eating and other things that will help keep students well.”

Mallory McKenzie, who travels with the simulation, said she and the team she works with travel all over the United States to high schools and colleges in an attempt to impress on simulation participants the dangers of distracted driving and drunk driving.

She said their next stop will be in Aledo, Texas.

“We are on the road nearly all the time,” she said. “If this experience can persuade people to drive safely, that will be worth all the travel.”

[Photo: KIMBERLY RYAN/NEWS-SUN Tyren Cameron takes his turn behind a drunk driving simulator from the Arrive Alive Tour program Monday in the Ben Alexander Student Center at New Mexico Junior College. Each driver chooses between a drunk driving or texting while driving test. Cameron stated it was an eye-opening experience.]

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