Young drivers get safety lessons at Oxford Area High School
By J. Chambless
A student driver takes his turn behind the wheel on March 22 at Oxford Area High School.
More than 100 students in Oxford crashed their cars on
March 22, but no one got hurt.
That’s the idea behind the Pennsylvania DUI Safety Simulator, a driving game that’s housed in a large trailer. Oxford Area High School hosted the traveling facility last week to give students – some of whom have taken driver’s education, and some of whom have never been behind the wheel – some idea of what it’s like to face hazards on the road.
Sitting in the back of the trailer, controlling the on-screen action, was Mike Martin, who can toss in hazards from his computer database at any point, or simulate the sluggish steering wheel response of a DUI driver, or change the time of day or weather conditions on the three large screens that surround the students.
But he takes it easy on the most nervous drivers, coaching them through fastening their seatbelt, turning the key and not putting both feet on the gas and brake pedals at the same time. With an audience of 20 to 25 other students offering advice – or commentary – each student drove the game out onto the simulated road, facing police cars pulled to the side of the highway, or oncoming drivers, or animals crossing in front of them, or simply the challenge of keeping the car on the road.
One girl got the car up to 112 miles an hour without realizing it before she crashed. Another drove off the road and hit a deer. Another had a shattering, head-on crash with an oncoming car. But the lessons being taught -- whether the students had begun driver’s education classes or were first-time drivers – will hopefully stick.
Chuck Weed, a State Farm Insurance agent based in Oxford, introduced the simulator to each group of students, offering a stuffed bear to the driver who was judged the best by their peers. Weed and State Farm pay the fee to have the simulator schools each year since 2003.
“Some of the kids last four or five minutes,” he said of the simulator, “and others last 10 to 15 seconds, but the idea is to plant the seed in their minds to think about safety when they’re behind the wheel. It’s part of how State Farm gives back to the community.”
According to the company, car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in America, and inexperience is often a factor in making one fatal mistake behind the wheel. Taking a turn in the simulator, Weed said, “is one lesson that all the kids can grasp.”
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.