A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

A sobering lesson: Teens at Bryan Station learn about hazards of distracted driving


Video from Kentucky Office of Highway Safety

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

Teens at Bryan Station High School in Lexington absorbed a sobering lesson at the wheel of a Distracted Driving Simulator, which aptly illustrated various hazards and the potential consequences.

“You don’t fully understand how hard it is until you drive,” said 18-year-old Lena Muhammad, who has an unrestricted license. “Texting and driving don’t mix. It’s not worth it.”

Students’ taking turns in the D2 simulator punctuated the school’s fall campaign promoting the nationwide “It Can Wait” theme. At an open house the previous week, teenagers and their families signed a pledge to keep their minds trained on the highway.


When a cell phone is introduced into the scenario, few students make it through the five-minute segment without a crash. (Photo from FCPS)

“You can’t focus on one thing or the other,” Lena said, “and I’m responsible for everyone in the car.”

The D2 simulator mimics and displays the handling characteristics of real vehicles to spotlight safe-driving habits. The software offers specialized lessons with some 200 scenarios, such as an 18-wheeler pulling out from a side road or a deer bounding across the highway, which test a driver’s reflexes and braking reactions. While negotiating a route, each student pulled out his phone to check his messages or send a text. Most didn’t make it through their five-minute segment without a traffic violation or crash.

D2 program coordinator Tiffany Duvall, with the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, also reminded students of the importance of defensive driving and encouraged them to watch out for impaired or distracted drivers, who can display similar warning signs such as speed fluctuation and lane drifting.

“You can be the best driver, but you cannot control everybody else out there,” she said.

The main types of distractions are visual (taking eyes off the road), manual (taking hands off the wheel) and cognitive (taking the mind off driving), and texting involves all three. It’s not the only problem, however. Phone calls, music, food and chatty passengers can also divert a driver.

“Your mind is dividing your attention and trying to cover everything,” Duvall said of the brain overload. “Distracted driving is becoming an epidemic, and the death toll is growing daily,” she added.

Despite accident statistics and legal ramifications, today’s young drivers often think nothing of having their cell phones in hand continuously.


The main types of distractions are visual (taking eyes off the road), manual (taking hands off the wheel) and cognitive (taking the mind off driving), and texting involves all three. (Photo from FCPS)

“We are so tethered to our phones, that generation especially. They don’t think of it as a distraction,” Duvall said. “As a society, we are addicted to that constant connection. It’s the same as eating or having a conversation – we don’t think of them as distractions.”

That lack of awareness and overconfidence can lead to trouble, according to senior Casey Lytton, who has had close calls in traffic. He hopes the D2 simulator experience made an impression at Bryan Station.

“It gives you perspective so you won’t do it in real life,” Casey said. “You’ll think twice about picking up that phone. Your life is more important than a text message.”

Save the date: Nov. 18-23 is National Teens Don’t Text and Drive Week.

For more information about the “Texting and Driving … It Can Wait” campaign, click here.

To see a documentary from AT&T featuring families affected by someone who was texting while driving, click here.

Tammy L. Lane is a communications specialist and website editor for Fayette County Public Schools.

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