Distractions at MCHS

Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Photo by LPD MCHS senior Alexis Davis, 17, reacts to what happens to the AAA simulation car she's driving when she's distracted by her cell phone.

From Staff Reports

Lewisburg Police and the American Automobile Association have persuaded dozens, if not hundreds, of Marshall County High School students that it's foolish to drive when distracted.

Police Capt. Rebekah Mitchell brought a Triple-A driving simulator to MCHS, set it up in the cafeteria, and started by putting students from Coach Kevin McGehee's driver's education class in the driver's seat.

"It did teach you that distractions can happen and you need to be real careful while you're driving," 17-year-old MCHS senior Alexis Davis said after experiencing the simulator twice. "It was fun, but it wasn't like real driving."

The AAA equipment includes a steering wheel clamped to a table, foot pedals, three flat screens on the table, a speaker and a computer with programming that presents something akin to an arcade video game.

AAA's simulated driving program delivers on expectations, but the program goes further. Drivers face an avatar-like police officer requesting a drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.

"He made me get out and do a DUI test," Davis said. "Then I had to go to court."

Scenes of the "Judge Judy" TV show could easily come to mind in that segment of the program.

Then she couldn't get a job that requires driving as part of the work because she'd been convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

"One mistake can ruin your future," Davis said. "I think teenagers need to be more careful."

She wants to be a radiologist, or an ultrasound technician, according to her mother, Darlene Robertson of Lewisburg.

"I have drilled it into her head, 'Don't text and drive,'" Robertson said.

That's the major message for Lewisburg Police Chief Chuck Forbis and the captain, they said, largely because of their young audience. Elimination of other distractions are also advocated.

"Our goal ... is to provide a life-like experience ... in the hope that it will deter students from making a bad choice when they are actually driving on the road," Mitchell said.

"It's about saving lives."

Other lessons learned by students included losses such as going without a car for an average of three weeks and having to work an average of 575 hours to earn the money needed to pay for the financial losses resulting from a crash.

Statistically, drivers are 30 percent more dangerous when they text and drive as compared to when they drink and drive, according to the AAA.

Mitchell operated the simulator two weeks ago at MCHS. She'd seen it at a Lifesavers Conference in Murfreesboro during September. "It's a very popular piece of equipment," she said.