St. Francis Bringing Distracted/Impaired Driving Simulator to Grand Island

May 23, 2018

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Despite knowing the dangers, many American drivers still talk on a cellphone or text while behind the wheel.

In fact, the number of drivers who say they talk regularly or fairly often on their cellphone while driving has actually risen 46 percent since 2013, according to a new survey released in March. More than 2,600 licensed drivers (age 16 and older) were questioned for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey.

Nearly 58 percent said talking on a cellphone while driving is a very serious threat to their safety, while 78 percent said texting is a significant danger. Yet nearly half of the respondents said they recently talked on a hand-held phone while driving. And more than one-third had sent a text or email while driving, according to the survey.

"As the number of distractions behind the wheel increases — from the latest phone apps to in-vehicle technology — it’s important that we better educate drivers on the dangers of distraction," said Stacie Rash, CHI Health St. Francis Child Safety coordinator. "There appears to be a major disconnect between what drivers do and what they believe. While most recognize the dangers created by taking your eyes off the road, they engage in distracting behaviors anyway — creating a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ culture on the roadway."

In an effort to help educate the public on the problem of distracted driving, members of the St. Francis Trauma and Child Safety departments are teaming with the Nebraska Safety Council (NSC) and Drive Smart Nebraska to bring a distracted/impaired driving simulator to Hy-Vee in Grand Island from 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, May 24, and to the Grand Island Public Library from 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, May 31.

The simulator consists of a large computer monitor, a steering wheel and pedal pads fixed to a table. It has two modes: distracted and impaired driving. While operating the vehicle via the steering wheel and pedals, the computer gives the driver directions to navigate the vehicle through many of the dangers and/or distractions encountered day to day while operating a vehicle.

Meanwhile, the computer asks you to send a text message while driving and records errors. The simulator also has the capacity to show several videos the simulate flight for life, police interaction, going to court, getting a DUI etc. The videos can be individually selected by the participant.

St. Francis is the first facility allowed to check out the simulator and operate it without a NSC staff member being present. Anyone age 13 and older can participate and each simulator session takes approximately 5-8 minutes.

"Our hope is to educate the staff and public about the dangers and reality of distracted driving," said Kristianna Farley, St. Francis Trauma coordinator. "Nearly 80 percent of U.S drivers believe hands-free cell phone use is safer than handheld, but according to the National Safety Council, they are incorrect. You are seven times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision when talking on the phone and 23 times more likely when texting and driving."

St. Francis will have the driving simulator on loan until June 7.