Every now and then I read something about a driver safety course that makes me really want to take it. No, not the kind where you go to some bad seafood chain restaurant, eat greasy fish, and listen to two guys try to be funny while they blatantly give you all the answers to the questions. Law enforcement officers in Fayette County, Kentucky are using an Ultra Interactive Driving Simulator to help some drivers expunge offenses from their records in particular, drivers 16 to 18.
The law dogs are pretty upfront that the appeal of the thing is that it’s pretty much a video game. Basically the set up is a driver’s seat with a seat belt, steering wheel, some turn signals, pedals for the brake and accelerator and a “windshield” — three computers displaying current conditions. That’s everything from heavy downtown traffic to driving on some dark, country road with deer darting out in front of you.
It’s not just a matter of the machines measuring things like you reaction time. A trooper is standing there watching you “drive.” Case in point. Cop says to one kid, “Text behind the wheel.” She pops out her phone, runs her arms through the steering wheel, and starts thumb typing like a little demon. He points out, “You know if you’re in an accident and that air bag goes off it’s going to crush the bones in your arms.” Okey dokey. I don’t know about you, but “crushed bones” would get me to stop texting behind the wheel faster than statistics on “distracted driving.”
Glorified video game or not, this is a brilliant idea — using technology that is normal to the next generation of drivers to show them what works and what doesn’t in a simulated environment. In my day we had troopers come in with blood and gore accident films. Had about as much affect on us as that cautionary marijuana classic, “Reefer Madness.” If you want to appeal to young drivers to make good choices, appeal to them in their own language. The impetus might be to clear up their driving records and get Dad to hush about the elevating auto insurance premiums, but the result is the effective teaching of safe driving techniques across a spectrum of conditions.