Club hosts safe driving tour

Simulation teaches dangers of distracted and drunk driving

MIFFLINTOWN — Juniata High School students got an eye-opening experience about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving on Monday.

In preparation for prom season, the school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club hosted the Arrive Alive Tour, a program based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that uses a a high-tech simulator, impact video and a number of other resources to educate students about the dangers of texting while driving and driving intoxicated.

The simulator allows participants to experience the potential consequences of distracted and impaired driving in a controlled environment.

As part of the simulation, students wore virtual reality goggles to get a sense of what it is like to text and drive or to drive under the influence.

“The purpose is to show them how focused you really need to be on the road,” said Samantha Liberatore, physical education teacher at Juniata High School and SADD club adviser for Juniata High School.

Students were invited to participate in the simulation during their study hall period.

When simulations were complete, students received a citation that shows why they were pulled over, what their fine would be, and, if necessary, what their jail sentence might be, Liberatore said.

Distracted and impaired driving “is an issue no matter where you are,” said Liberatore. While some of the students who participated in the simulation do not currently have a driver’s license, she said spreading awareness to students is key to teaching them to drive safely.

“Hopefully by participating in this simulation, they will stay away from situations that could harm or kill them,” Liberatore said.

Overall, Liberatore said the simulation was well received by students.

“I think they are taking it very seriously,” she said. “They go into it thinking, ‘oh, I can do this,’ but then find it is harder than they thought it would be.”

Following the simulation, Sophomore Nina Harling, who participated in the impaired driving course, said “It shows how badly you drive when you are under the influence.”

Sophomore Hayley Snyder, who participated in the texting and driving simulation said she found the experience to be “scary,” and while she doesn’t drive yet, said in the future, she will use a hands free device.

According to the Council of Interstate Testing Agencies Inc., one of the most commonly recognized driving distractions is cell phone use.

Additionally, according to the NAtional Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Their lack of driving experience can contribute to critical misjudgements if they become distracted.

When it comes to distracted driving, Meghan Yost, of the Arrive Alive Tour, said there are about six times more reported incidents related to texting and driving than driving under the influence.

According to Yost, in the time it takes to reply to one text –on average between 4.5 and 5 seconds a driver traveling 55 mph has driven the length of a football field without looking at the road.

“A $10 Uber is a lot cheaper than a $10-$20,000 DUI,” said Yost.

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