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Driving Simulator Helps Teens Stop Distracted and Impaired Driving

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What is One Simple Decision?

“One Simple Decision” driving simulator.

Larry Copeland reports in Tuesday’s USA TODAY that a driving simulator program called “One Simple Decision” (OSD) is showing young people what can happen if they have an auto accident while texting behind the wheel or driving under the influence, and is helping to modify their driving behavior.

The simulator was created by VirtualDriver InterActive Inc. (VDI), one of the largest driving simulator manufacturers in the U.S. Using the simulator is “an intense, 20-minute experience,” Copeland writes. It features simulated driving and interactions with actual sheriff’s deputies, a real judge, and emergency medical personnel.

VDI developed the simulator using high-definition video scenes, thought-provoking questions, and cutting-edge gaming technology, the VDI website says. The program highly engages students, allowing them to “live through” the risks and consequences of driving distracted or impaired, the site says. OSD allows customers who buy it to collect data that addresses their needs, including student throughput, demographics, and opinions.

“Additionally, customers can customize the survey questions specific to their unique issues, such as seat-belt use, frequency of texting while driving and state specific requirements,” the site says.

In his article, Copeland writes about his interview with Harry Mochel, a 19-year-old who experienced the simulator about a year ago in a private driving school in Rye, NY:

He says he was ‘driving’ along on the simulator. ‘It tells you to start texting, so I took out my phone and started texting,’ he says. ‘I ended up crashing into a stop sign and got into a head-on collision. It’s crazy to see how easy it was.’

Just like real life, though, that was just the beginning of his troubles. ‘The real powerful part was that as soon as you got into the crash, the scene changes from the driving simulation scene to actual video footage of a cop walking up to you,’ says Mochel, now a freshman at Tulane University in New Orleans. ‘As he comes up, he shines a light in your face and says, ‘Have you been drinking?’

‘Then you have the police booking you into jail, and the court,’ Mochel says. ‘It puts everything in perspective and makes it really realistic.’

The OSD simulator program is catching on, Copeland writes, at the same time that the federal government releases data showing how widespread distracted driving is among young people and works to prevent it. “Earlier this month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood intensified his 3½-year fight against distracted driving, which he says accounts for about one in 10 road fatalities — 3,092 deaths in 2010.”

Among the many companies and states promoting use of the program are Toyota and Discovery Education for their joint teen driving-safety program, Toyota Teen Driver; UPS with Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Nationwide Insurance; the Mayo Clinic; AAA; the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety; The Allstate Foundation and UMass Memorial Center; the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, the California Department of Highway Patrol, NASCAR, Ohio’s Department of Transportation, and many others, according to VDI.

Bob Davis, CEO and founder of VSI, told Copeland he was motivated to create the simulator after his research found that many teen drivers misunderstood the impact of distracted and/or impaired driving:

‘I asked, “What’s the downside of texting while driving?” ‘ Davis says. ‘They said, I know it’s like a $25 ticket, which is not that much money. They interpreted the law as the downside was a $25 ticket. […] The (simulation) experience for the kids has to be a personal one to make it really effective.’

VDI’s surveys found that 86% of teens and young adults who experienced the OSD simulator said they will rarely or never drive distracted in the future, and 71% said the consequences of bad driving choices were worse or much worse than they had previously though, Copeland reports.

Here is a video about One Simple Decision:

Image by VirtualDriver InterActive, used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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