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Simulator shows teens texting danger

Sun., May 13, 2012

SEATTLE – Police consider the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day to be “the 100 deadliest days” for teens to be on the road. A campaign to stop teenagers from texting while driving just kicked off to get the message out: No text is worth your life or someone else’s.

Daniel Kittner, a senior at Garfield High School in Seattle, said of texting, “It started with friends, and now I text with my parents; everyone’s gotten into it.”

It’s the way teenagers communicate; they send on average 3,400 texts each month.

And even though it’s against the law in Washington state to text or read a text while driving, teenagers like Kittner admit they do it.

“You know, there have been a few times where I have glanced at a message or two and noticed I was drifting while driving, a little to the sides.”

But with a virtual texting/driving simulator, he and hundreds of other students at Garfield High were learning firsthand Wednesday just how dangerous texting and driving can be for them and everybody else on the road.

AT&T has teamed up with the Peers Foundation to bring the simulator to as many areas as possible for the next year.

The student sits in a car and puts on goggles that allow him or her to see a virtual road course. While Kittner goes through the simulation and tries to text at the same time, his peers follow along on a screen to see how he’s scoring.

Dan Youmans, the president of AT&T Washington, said, “We’re going to schools and universities, anywhere where we can find young people to give them hands-on, safe experience.”

Kittner’s results were stunning. “I got like two infractions, one for speeding and one for wrong side of the road, and ended up hitting a person.”

Classmate Grant Bronsdon said, “You try to look up … look down … I ended up crashing.”

The take-home message? Texting can wait.

Anne Marshall, an AT&T spokeswoman, said, “You don’t need to send a text message or even read one while you’re driving. It can simply wait, and I say what one of the students has said: ‘You don’t want to turn LOL into an OMG.’ ”

The simulator was in Spokane on Tuesday and Seattle on Wednesday, and it heads down to Oregon and California for the next month before traveling across the country for the next year.


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