Teen Drive, a program that teaches students about the consequences of distracted driving, was brought to AHS in early November.

The distracted driving truck allows two students at a time to simulate being behind the wheel -- with and without distractions such as texting. (Photo by Alison Murtagh)
The distracted driving truck allows two students at a time to simulate being behind the wheel — with and without distractions such as texting. (Photo by Alison Murtagh)

The program is put on by Allstate Insurance and is run out of the injury prevention department at UMass. A truck, with two driving simulators, is driven to schools throughout the state to allow students to participate in simulations demonstrating the fatal effects of distracted driving, and show them how one bad decision can affect the rest of their life. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every day in the United States 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 are injured in crashes that are reported to have a distracted driver.

Many new drivers believe that they will never be part of this statistic, but the numbers are rising. Distracted driving, which includes activities like texting, talking on the phone, or eating, is becoming an epidemic throughout the United States.

Health teachers at AHS decided to try and combat this epidemic by allowing upperclassmen to sign up and take part in the program either during health class or a study. Teen Drive is free for both the school and the students that participate.

Leo Perrault, a former police officer and driver’s ed instructor, ran the simulation at AHS. “We do three separate scenarios with the students. One is free drive where they practice on the simulator to get the feeling of the steering wheel, and the breaks, and the gas, and all that stuff. Then we go into impaired driving. What happens here is the students are subjected to the machine being impaired. So the steering, the breaking, everything acts as though they are under the influence of something.”

Leah Duncan, a junior who participated in the program, explained what happened in the impaired driving stage: “You get pulled over; then the police take you to jail, and you get a court date.”

“We both got in accidents,” said Sean Caveney, a junior who also participated with Duncan.

After the simulations, Perrault discusses with the students how important it is to not use their phones or other devices while driving. “You’re driving a 4,000 pound car, and for some reason you feel it’s okay to look down.  You can not take your eyes off the road. You can’t do it. You don’t walk forward looking backward because you know you’re going to trip and fall or hit something. Yet you’ll take you’re eyes off the road knowing that this car could hurt somebody,” said Perrault.

Perrualt believes it is important to leave your phone on while you drive so it is easily accessible if you are ever in an accident. In order to prevent distractions though, he recommends drivers keep their mobile devices far enough away so that they are “out of sight, out of mind.”

 By Alison Murtagh