California High School students ‘crash’ distracted driving test

June 2, 2014
Xavier Reed, 16, a student at California Area High School, learns the dangers of texting while driving as he “crashes” a vehicle in a simulated accident at the high school Thursday. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

CALIFORNIA – Xavier Reed, a new driver at age 16, failed the distracted driving test within seconds of sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle designed to simulate what can happen when youths drink and drive.

“Wow! Whoa!” the student at California Area High School said before announcing the video playing in the specially designed sunglasses he was wearing showed his vehicle crashing into a car.

“I ain’t going to drink and drive,” Reed said Thursday, when a company named Unite brought its Arrive Alive Tour to the California Borough campus.

The company hosts events using a real automobile with sensors on its gas and brake pedals and steering wheel to simulate, in a safe environment, how accidents occur when drivers are under the influence or use cellphones to send text messages while operating a vehicle, said Chris Bennett, a team leader in the program. The vehicle’s front wheels sat atop rotating devices that also responded to the simulation software.

Bennett said texting while driving “causes four times as many accidents as drunk driving does.”

“Every single kid here crashes,” Bennett said.

He said the students at California didn’t perform well in the simulator because they were all “lower classmates just learning to drive.”

Drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of distracted-driving fatal crashes, Unite’s news release said.

William Mitchell, 17, said he chose to be DUI when he got in the vehicle and quickly lost control after stopping and then turning.

“I just ran off the road,” Mitchell said. “It was confusing.”

The program in California was made possible by a $2,000 grant from the Washington County Drug and Alcohol Commission.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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