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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

So you think you can text and drive? Guess again.

Driving Simulator“They’ll see you before you see them.” “Keep your head out of your apps.” Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” “It can wait.”

Every day, we’re bombarded by anti-drunk driving and anti-distracted driving messages like the ones above — to the point where we may feel overloaded. But I recently got to see why the consequences of driving drunk or distracted can be so dire, thanks to UNITE’s Arrive Alive Tour.

The tour made a stop recently at our headquarters outside Washington, D.C., with their driving simulator, which was loaded with techno-wizardry. There was an actual vehicle (a Jeep Patriot) hooked up to a computer, which fed inputs from the car to a virtual reality headset.

I climbed into the Jeep, got myself situated, and started my first test, which was to drive with a simulated blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.12 percent, which is 50 percent more than the legal limit. And … things didn’t go so well.

I don’t think I made it more than a few hundred feet, and after swerving out of my lane too many times to count … WHAM … a direct hit into a parked car. Game. Set. Match. I would have been booked on the spot in real life. Driving impaired like this felt like the car was part of a Tilt-A-Whirl carnival ride, and you have to somehow keep the car straight — virtually impossible.

For the next test, I pulled out my phone. I started driving again – this time without the .12 percent BAC – and this time I was instructed to compose a text: “I’m on my way home from work. Do you need anything from the store?”

This challenge went a little better. I did get the message composed correctly, but I slowed to 10 mph below the speed limit and wandered from my lane. Even though I didn’t cause an accident, I would have still been a major hazard to other cars because I was texting and driving.

The final takeaway here is simple. It’s time to stop imagining you can multi-task behind the wheel, and start realizing that it’s actually task-switching. And when you switch off of driving, bad things can happen in less than an instant.



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