On Thursday, students at an area high school got a first hand look at the risks associated with texting and driving by using a driving simulator.
Students at Brentwood Academy took turns getting behind the wheel and typing a text message while driving on a virtual road.
Many of the students found the task more difficult than expected, crashing into pedestrians and vehicles they didn't see coming.
“It was really hard to drive while I was texting. It was easy until I took my phone out then it got really hard to stay in my lane and stop at the right times,” student Ben McQuiddy said.
He added, “I occasionally text and drive but not very often, but if I get texts from a friend I'll sometimes do it, but I try not to. Now that I've seen that, it kind of makes me nervous to do that in the car.”
In addition to getting a chance to drive using the simulator, Doug and Pat Ralls, who lost their son in a head-on-collision in 2009 due to another driver texting and driving, spoke to students.
“We don't want any parent to feel the hurt that we've felt and that's the bottom line about this,” Doug Ralls told students.
Pat Ralls added, “The level of distraction caused by simply talking on the phone, whether it's a Blue Tooth or hand held or whatever is equivalent to a .08 blood alcohol level. That is drunk driving. Most people say, ‘Well I'd never do that, but hardly anyone says, ‘Wow I'd never talk on my phone.”
After using the simulator and listening to the Ralls' presentation, each student took a pledge not to text and drive. The stimulator was at the high school in part due to a national campaign through AT&T that encourages motorists not to text and drive.
In 2010, the state of Tennessee enacted a law making it illegal for drivers to text behind the wheel.
Hundreds of motorists have been cited with a $50 fine for not obeying the law.