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Don’t try this in real life

South Boston News
15-year-old Amber Lloyd sideswipes a “tree” during a distracted driver simulation. (Susan Kyte photos) / August 09, 2017

Students and staff at Park View High School learned first hand what it’s like to drive under the influence at a special presentation held at the school Monday.

The distracted driving simulation, staged by Virginia State Police with the help of State Farm Insurance and YOVASO (Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety), will hopefully save lives, said Sgt. Rob Campbell of the Virginia State Police.

Campbell, who serves on the Mecklenburg County School Board, is a contact person for school organizations looking to impress upon teenage drivers the dangers of distracted driving — whether from texting, driving under the influence, or even from playing music too loud.

David Buchanan, State Farm Insurance agent in Clarksville and Chase City, said the company is passionate about promoting safe driving. Buchanan hopes this new distracted driving simulation program will “save a few lives and benefit the kids.”

Since the statewide expansion of YOVASO — a peer-to-peer advocacy program that works with Virginia State Police to empower teenagers to work towards the prevention of motor vehicle crashes — teen highway fatalities have steadily declined, from 133 in 2007 to 44 in 2015.

Since Monday was both fee day and freshman orientation at Park View, Campbell had a ready audience of young drivers willing to take on the challenge of maneuvering a small electric car around an obstacle course while wearing a set of goggles that give the driver the sense of being under the influence.

Orange cones, placed strategically around a driving course, represented common obstacles a driver might face — trees, pedestrians, small children, animals. The goal, said Campbell, was for each driver to negotiate the course without colliding with, sideswiping or running over the cones. None of the drivers accomplished the feat while wearing the goggles.

Looking on as drivers tried and failed to successfully negotiate the course, Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols spoke of his desire to incorporate the distracted driver simulation into the school drivers’ education program.

Campbell said he already has a number of simulation events scheduled. YOVASO clubs or schools that are interested in having the simulator visit their schools should contact Campbell at (434) 447-4121.

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