Kent State brings simulator to teach students about distracted driving

Dana Miller

Kent State Police services partnered up with AT&T at Thursday’s Arrive Alive event in the Student Center to bring in a distracted driving simulator for the first time.

“We believe it is important to get the message out, the dangers of texting and driving,” said Steve Kristan, the director of external affairs for AT&T. “While a lot of people know it is dangerous, they’ll still do it.”

Kristan hopes bringing the simulator to Kent will help students change their mindset when receiving a text while driving through their program called, It Can Wait.

“The other thing is not only to change their behavior,” Kristan said. “But to get them to talk to their friends and parents and say, ‘Hey don’t text and drive.’”

It’s not only texting that distracts people while driving, Kristan said.

“There are situations where people will do a web search or do Facebook posts,” he said. “Even 10 percent of people with smartphones admit to using it to do video chatting. We’ve got to stop that.”

Students who tried the simulator did not realize how much of an issue distracted driving could be.

“I didn’t know it would be that hard,” Kitana Foris said, a freshman zoology major. “I’ve seen people texting and driving all of the time, but that was ridiculous.”

Along with the distracted driving simulator, Foris had the chance to “walk the line” using beer goggles and said she could not even imagine driving while being that impaired.

“It was crazy, it was like looking through a kaleidoscope,” Foris said. “It’s really hard to walk or even look around with them on.”  

While the simulations were a fun way to teach the community, student speakers presented their personal stories of accidents caused by distracted driving, to leave a lasting thought in student’s minds.

Chelsea Kennedy, a senior public health major, shared her story of how she wound up with a shattered windshield and painful reoccurring memories from her accident last October on Homecoming night.

Kennedy was driving home in rainy weather after babysitting, carefully trying to adhere to her parents’ advice to be safe, when trouble started in front of Brewhouse.

“I see a car coming head-on and I don’t know what to do,” Kennedy said. “I’ve never been in an accident.”

Kennedy said she had turned her car just enough to the left in order to avoid being hit directly. She blanked out from the accident and her car was so smashed that she couldn’t get out of the car, she said.

“The air bags had deployed, I had my seatbelt on luckily, but my windshield had completely shattered and there was glass everywhere,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy had later learned from an emergency medical technician that a drunk driver had struck her. Kenney said the EMT told her she was lucky to be alive and the impact of the accident could have caused her to lose her life.

“(The drunk driver) ended up being over double limit that night,” Kennedy said.

The worst part of the accident is what happens afterward, Kennedy said. She underwent six months of physical therapy and even after time, Kennedy still suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“A year later and I am still struggling with what has occurred that night in those 25 minutes (of the accident),” Kennedy said.

She had closed off her speech with a message for students to take with them.

“When you text and drive, when you drink and drive, you are not only compromising your life or your passengers, but also the people in the cars around you,” Kennedy said. “They all have family that they want to go home to.”

Dana Miller is the safety/transport reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].