Ever wonder what it would be like to drive intoxicated without running the risk of getting arrested, harming yourself, and/or harming others?
State Farm Insurance, The Kittitas Community Network and Coalition, and the Washington State Patrol recently offered a booth that simulated texting-while-driving and driving under the influence at the Kittitas County Fair in Washington.
The booth used realistic, lifelike effects and 4-D glasses to take drivers on a one mile virtual alcohol-induced ride through a mix of beach and cityscape. The total simulation only lasted about three minutes and was available to fair goers ages 14 and older.
According to Darren Wright, the goal of the virtual tour was to give people the skills to make better choices. Wright, the public information officer for District 6 of the Washington State Patrol, said “When you’re driving, drive. Don’t drive distracted.”
The simulation included other drunk and texting drivers on the road. While driving, people would experience delayed reaction time as though they were under the influence. This was accomplished by delaying the speed at which the simulated car would react to the drivers’ actions. If a collision occurred, the driver would hear a very loud crashing sound. Simulated pedestrians also existed in the virtual course and drivers could potentially kill someone.
Martin Burke of UNITE international’s Arrive Alive Tour said that the experience aims to get past the notion that these issues don’t affect the population at large and is meant to educate and improve awareness.
Many people who tried the simulation also experienced some of the other consequences of driving drunk such as being cited for speeding, swerving, driving on the incorrect side of the road, failure to stop and vehicular manslaughter.
“Other effects of intoxication such as impaired judgment, the thing that causes a drunk person to make the decision to reach for the keys in the first place, cannot be simulated by a software program,” reads the handout from the virtual tour. Before participating in the simulation, drivers sign a pledge to focus while driving and to not drive distracted. Upon completing their tour, participants receive a pledge card to place on their key ring. Burke hope is that people will see the card and it will remind them to focus while driving.
For novelty purposes, I wouldn’t mind seeing a simulator such as this at some of our Southern California fairs. Not that the intention isn’t good, but before I’d consider it a legitimate and accurate simulation of drunk driving, I’d like to know what research exists to indicate that the effects replicated by the simulator actually reflect that of driving drunk. Until then, it might as well have a quarter intake slot.