Simulators Debut for RuCo Teen Drivers

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Program Management Administrator Jason Ivey of the Governor's Highway Safety Office tests out the driving simulator. Watching are SROs Dustin Cox and Ward Bates.

School Resource Officers hope to improve driving skills of Rutherford County high school students by using a simulator showing consequences of driving distracted and impaired.

Program Management Administrator Jason Ivey of the Governor's Highway Safety Office said distracted driving is a major issue in traffic crashes. That's one reason GHSO funded two simulators for the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office School Resource Officers' Division. This project is funded under an agreement with the State of Tennessee's Governor's Highway Safety Office.

Ivey's comments came during the Tennessee Lifesavers Conference in September at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro.

During the conference, Rutherford County SROs Dustin Cox and Ward Bates demonstrated the two simulators purchased from GHSO funds and spoke during the "Distracted Driving - the Tennessee Perspective" session.

Since school started, SROs Bates and Cox took the simulators to 14 high schools and community events to teach young drivers about the consequences of driving distracted. SROs hope every Rutherford County High School student who drives will take advantage of the simulator.

"These simulators driving like a car," Cox explained. "It doesn't brake as fast as a car."

The student starts driving the simulator with voice instructions to make a telephone call. They may be involved in a crash while trying to dial. The simulator totals the number of traffic violations.

Some scenarios are pedestrians crossing the path or driving violations such as running stop signs or traffic signals.

In one scenario, the driver's actions cause a crash. Paramedics and a medical helicopter treat the victim but cannot save the life. A judge discusses the consequences such as serving a jail sentence and costs. A family member discusses the toll of losing the victim because the driver did not pay attention.

"It's a learning tool all the way through," Bates said. "It reinforces to the driver to keep your eyes on what's going on in your vehicle."

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