Distracted and drunk driving simulator

Waseca County News Sports Editor Dan Ring tests out the Mayo Clinic Health System distracted and drunk driving simulator. It’s no video game. (Suzanne Rook/Waseca County News)

While it looks like video game, Trauma and Injury Prevention Coordinator Peggy Sue Garber insists it’s anything but.

Complete with steering wheel, accelerator and brake, the the Mayo Clinic Health System distracted and drunk driving simulator, which came to the Waseca County Fair last week, uses computer graphics to take participants through a series of real-life driving scenarios. There are pedestrians, dogs running out into the road and, of course, other vehicles.

But in this “game” participants are asked to text and drive, illustrating what can happen when a driver takes their eyes off the road — even for a second or two. A second portion asks participants to pop on a pair of goggles that simulate drunk driving.

Garber, who covers the southwestern portion of the state, said while those who haven’t yet gotten their driver’s license tend to view it as a game, she hopes to give them something to remember once they’re allowed behind the wheel. Or, she said, share their experience with family members who already drive.

Older drivers, she said, need to be reminded of the dangers, particularly with texting while driving.

“We live by our phone,” she said of our connection to the technology. “It’s not a habit, it’s a reflex. You have to change your habits so when that reflex kicks in, you resist it.”

So many of us text and drive, and get away with it, she said. But Garber worries that if society doesn’t push the culture of safety it’s never going to start.

“People are afraid to say ‘Put your phone down. Call me when you get there. I want you to arrive alive,’” she said.

Joe Larkin, 14, and Gabe Muntean, 12, both of Waseca, took their turn at the simulator, and the results surprised them.

“I thought it was going to be easy, but it wasn’t,” said Larkin.

“Everything was all messed up,” said Muntean of wearing the drunk-driving goggles, “and it made you feel dizzy.”

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-931-8567. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy

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