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Virtual reality used to send important distracted driving message

Whether you realized it or not, April was dubbed Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Even though the month is now over, distracted driving is an issue worth discussing at any and all times of the year. It continues to be a hazard in every state and a leading cause of car accidents nationwide.

For teen drivers - who are already at an increased risk for car accidents - using a cellphone while driving may seem like no big deal because this generation literally grew up with electronic devices in their hands. That's why many teens could benefit from first-hand experience on just how difficult and dangerous it is to drive distracted. But how can this valuable lesson be taught safely?

Many educators and insurance companies are investing in technology to combat the distractions caused by other technology. Specifically, companies like Allstate have come up with driving simulators that allow users to experience the dangers of texting and driving without actually driving.

During Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Allstate toured the country with its "Reality Rides" simulator. It is apparently an actual car that remains stationary yet provides a "responsive animated environment" via a video screen where the windshield would otherwise be. Users can manipulate the pedals and steering wheel to respond to the virtual driving environment in front of them.

While going for a drive, users are challenged to text, dial their cellphones and use GPS navigation systems. When they get dangerously distracted, they may experience a crash or get a "citation" similar to those issued by police.

In a survey taken after the simulation, most users say that their attitudes about distracted driving have changed, and they now understand how dangerous it is.

Allstate's Reality Rides simulator is just one of many virtual reality devices used to help demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving. Hopefully, this type of technology will become more widely available in the Atlanta area in the near future.

Source: Carrier Management, "Allstate Tries to Educate Drivers With Reality Rides Simulator," April 8, 2015

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