By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Central State University students had a chance to try impaired driving without getting in trouble on Wednesday.
UNITE’s Arrive Alive simulator was on campus, giving participants a chance to get behind the wheel of an actual vehicle, and through the use of virtual-reality glasses, see if they could actually drive after a few drinks or while texting.
It was the fourth visit for the simulator and much like the previous three, students walked away with a different attitude.
“It was very informative,” said Yahdiel Yisrael, a freshman from Atlanta. “It was more difficult than I thought to handle the car. Once you made the slightest turn you’re turning more than you intended.
Kunlé Gaiusbayode, a sophomore from Columbus, had a hard time with the steering, but his biggest problem was with the traffic light.
“I’ve never drank and drove at the same time,” he said, “(but) … don’t run a yellow light because it was really red.”
Those are the kinds of conclusions CSU educators were hoping to see.
“Students think they’re invincible, they really do,” said Dr. Karen Mathews, CSU’s director of student health services.
“I think it drives a message home. I can’t even fathom to be texting and driving.”
Victor Adegbola, manager of counseling services, was trying to encourage everyone who walked by the student union to give the simulator a try.
“When they actually experience it, that makes a big difference,” he said. “They will argue they can do this, especially driving and texting.”
In a pre-simulator survey, 40 percent of the participants admitted they text and drive. After stepping out of the vehicle, 90 percent pledged to never do it again.
That’s a result that makes the Arrive Alive representatives happy.
“Our main objective is to raise awareness,” said Patrick Sheehy, who was the “officer” monitoring the simulator. “Something that will stick with you longer than a quick lecture or a commercial. It’s a good way to show (impaired and distracted driving) is dangerous.”
Arrive Alive has a fall and spring tour and hits about 50 schools on each tour. The simulator is set up so the special glasses affect vision while the steering, brakes and gas are calibrated to affect reaction time.
“Obviously it’s not exactly like driving,” Sheehy said. “It would be impossible to make it 100 percent realistic. It’s like a hands on experience.”
And for those who normally get behind a wheel while impaired, it becomes a hands-off experience.
Scott Halasz covers Xenia and Greene County for the Xenia Daily Gazette. He can be reached at 937-502-4507.