Students Learn Dangers of Distracted Driving in Virtual Reality Simulator

Student Jose Obregon tries out the AT&T It Can Wait VR simulator while another student takes the It Can Wait pledge to never driving distracted.

By: Carly Levy

Students at Coral Springs Charter School received a hands-on lesson through the help of a virtual reality simulator, that distracted driving is deadly.

Last month, students were introduced to a new virtual reality app, It Can Wait VR App, which teaches the dangers of distracted driving as part of AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign. Sophomores, juniors and seniors began by watching a video presentation about the dangers of distracted driving, then sat in a driving simulator wearing virtual reality goggles and a headset.

“You’re actually the body of the person in the car. You can see your legs and your hands. Your cellphone is next to you and it’s ringing,” said Assistant Principal Jodi Robins. “You keep picking [the cellphone] up and looking at it and I noticed myself getting startled a couple of times. Somebody had walked in front of the car, or I would swerve out of my lane. Eventually you do crash.”

The presentation ended with students signing a pledge to never text and drive and were told where they could download the app to block notifications while driving. For AT&T customers, DriveMode will also respond to texts on your behalf to let the person know you are behind the wheel and cannot respond.

Principal Gary Springer said, “I think most teenagers feel invincible at times and I think it’s important for them to realize that the things they do can have severe consequences and they’ve got to be cautious.”

Ten years ago, AT&T came up with the It Can Wait campaign which educates people across the county not to text and drive. The movement inspired 20 million pledges to avoid distracted driving, and since then, the AT&T’s DriveMode app has been downloaded more than 14 million times.

The campaign was first brought to Coral Springs Charter about four years ago with the help of Coral Springs Police Officer Chris Swinson who said that Broward County was number one in 2000-2014 for teen drivers who cause accidents that result in injury or death.

“When I first brought it down, I wanted to make sure that it was something that was going to be instrumental in providing them with education, something they would enjoy,” said Swinson. “Our number one goal is to reduce crashes and to save lives.”

Vice Principal Robins believes it was a useful experience for students and staff to see how easy it was to get distracted by their cellphones. Broward County Public Schools offers senior driving programs each month as well as teen driving programs at JP Taravella High School. She hopes to continue bringing the AT&T program to Coral Springs Charter School each year and would like to see it at JP Taravella and Coral Glades High School.

“Many students and staff have since installed apps that prevent them from receiving text notifications while they’re driving.”