2017-11-04 / Education

PHS seniors practice driving with mobile simulator

By Anna Fletcher
Courier-Times Staff Writer


N.C. State Highway Patrolman Brandon Baker explains how the simulator works to a group of PHS seniors. N.C. State Highway Patrolman Brandon Baker explains how the simulator works to a group of PHS seniors. The N.C. State Highway Patrol mobile driving simulator paid a visit to Person High School on Thursday to provide the senior class with hands-on defensive driving experience and to teach them about the dangers of distracted driving.

The students crowded into the 30-foot, custombuilt trailer for a turn at the wheel, where they would be presented with one of four scenarios.

In two situations, the driver follows road signs and arrows through an urban setting, complete with stop lights and pedestrians.

Another situation had other cars and pedestrians come into the driver’s lane, causing the driver to take evasive action. The last situation involved one of two forms of distracted driving — texting or driving under the influence.

According to State Highway Patrolman Brandon Baker, who operated the mobile classroom, distracted driving is an easy trap to fall into, especially when drivers become more seasoned.


Senior Joseph Berryhill tries out the “drunk goggles” during his turn at the driving simulator. Senior Joseph Berryhill tries out the “drunk goggles” during his turn at the driving simulator. “I remember being scared to death at 15 in driver’s ed, and then at 16 getting my license,” Baker said. “But then after that, you tend to get more comfortable driving. And it’s like with anything, when folks get too comfortable, they’re going to start making mistakes.”

The high school senior age, he says, is the time when drivers start getting comfortable with their newly-acquired skill and start engaging with distractions like cell phones, passengers, music and food while they’re on the road.

Baker had students wear “drunk goggles” to see how greatly any form of impairment affects their driving. PHS senior Joseph Berryhill was one of the participants who tried out the goggles.

“I thought I’d be able to see something of what I’m doing, but when you put [the goggles] on, you really can’t see anything hardly at all. You can barely move,” he said. “They made me turn into a totally different driver.”

Britney Annas, another senior, experienced how difficult it is to text and drive safely at the same time.

Baker had a friend text her while she was at the wheel, and Annas would respond to carry on the conversation.

“It was pretty crazy when I was texting, because I was swerving all over the place and didn’t even realize it,” Annas said. “I wasn’t focused, so I was speeding. I think I hit 60 when it was a 40, and I didn’t realize it.”

The computer-based simulator was created in 2015 as a collaborative project between the State Highway Patrol and State Farm Insurance Agency.

According to the N.C. Department of Public Safety, the simulator’s purpose is to provide trueto life interaction and emphasize judgment and decision-making skills.

It also causes teenage drivers to re-think their own driving, Baker says.

“Most of our fatalities are preventable,” he said. “They’re caused by four things — not wearing your seatbelt, speeding, impairment and distraction. For teens, all of these are still factors that we’re seeing. This is just a good way to re-focus on what’s important and having a good mindset toward driving.”

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