Midlothian HS students learn dangers of distracted driving ahead of prom

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — DRIVE SMART Virginia has partnered with Richmond International Raceway (RIR) to bring an interactive teen driver program to Midlothian High School and Goochland High School.

Midlothian students learned the dangers of distracted driving during the program on Friday morning. This comes ahead of the school’s prom that takes place this weekend.

“Another reason that we’re here is that we know that car crashes are the number one killer of our teens and I don’t think a lot of parents realize that,” Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia said. “You really need to make sure that they get all the training and guidance that you can get and give for them, so that they can be the best driver that they can be on the road.”

A highlight of the program was the in-vehicle distracted driving simulator.

This high-tech tool, installed in a full-sized vehicle, allows participants to experience the dangers of distracted driving while trying to navigate a simulated road scenario.

Sophomore JP Jarrett said he failed the most, while trying out the texting and driving simulator.

“I ran a red light, I crashed into someone and almost hit a person,” Jarrett said. “Prom night, you know you don’t know what could happen so you know I think that everyone should take that into account and make sure that they get home safe and alive.”

Students also heard Brad Hughes speak about the challenges he has faced after losing both legs to a 2014 car crash caused by a distracted driver.

“You know it’s extremely impactful. We get a tremendous amount of powerful feedback from the teens who have been able to hear him speak,” Brooking said. “We do a pre and post survey with our simulator that survey tells us, I want to say 98 percent of the teens that go through the course say that it is going to change their driving behaviors so we know that this has a very big impact on the people that can participate in it.”

In addition to the simulator and speaker, students learned about impaired driving as they attempt to navigate traffic cones while riding adult-size tricycles and wearing goggles that affect visual balance cues.

“I think I gain knowing that it’s extremely dangerous to text and drive and drink and drive and no one should do it,” sophomore Julia Gagulska said. “For the safety of yourself and others, passengers, just everyone around you. It benefits you to not do any of that.”

“RIR has proven to be a leader in the community through their dedication to saving lives with educational programs such as this one,” said Janet Brooking, Executive Director of DRIVE SMART Virginia. “Traffic crashes are the leading killer of teens in America. We know that these interactive programs can save lives.”

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