Virtual Reality program highlights dangers of distracted driving

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MARIETTA, Oh. (WTAP) - A virtual reality program visited Marietta College Friday to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and being impaired while driving.

The Arrive Alive tour thrusts users into the seat (literally) of an impaired or texting driver. It seeks to show young drivers the reality of distracted driving and the consequences of those choices.

"Distracted driving is something that has become very prevalent over the years," Marietta College Chief of Police James Weaver said, "with the introduction of certain technologies and it causes a lot of accidents."

Students and passersby who tried the program were surprised.

"It was very interesting and very immersive," Weaver said. "Being not intoxicated helped me to see what it's looks like to be intoxicated."

"At first, it was really easy because she started me off easy," Marietta College student Stephanie Sydensticker said. "But then after a while she started adding the alcohol and then it got blurry and then in got scary because there were things pulling out."

The program allows for variable settings, like the amount of alcohol you've consumed as well as different simulated environments like cities and countrysides.

According to the CDC, car accidents are the leading cause of teenager deaths. Often, those accidents involve an impaired or distracted driver.

And for those drivers who think texting is not as dangerous as drinking and driving, I would rethink that.

"With texting and driving, your attention span is decreased to about the same level as a .08 blood alcohol level," Max Vandewater, safety ambassador for Arrive Alive said, "so it's very similar in the fact that your full attention, all of a sudden, the road is not a part of that."

The simulator shows that whether you're texting or driving under the influence, it only takes a split second for something to go wrong.

"The most important thing to remember while you're on the road," Vandewater added, "is that it requires critical thinking and very quick judgment. Once you're impaired with alcohol, it's obviously lowering your judgment ability."

And the same goes for texting. So be safe and don't text or drive impaired.

"It's important because it's not just your life but the lives of those around you too," Sydensticker noted.

Vandewater says that a $10 Uber is better and safer than a $10,000 DUI.

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