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Simulator could signal ‘game over’ for distracted driving

Published on

Troy Shantz

Distracted driving on public roads can lead to fines, serious injuries or even death.

But thanks to a state-of-the-art driving simulator coming to Northern Collegiate, it could soon just mean: “play again.”

The simulator puts students in the driver seat of a virtual car to teach them the basics of road driving.

Using five screens and a replica dashboard and steering wheel, it realistically simulates being behind the wheel to give users a taste of driving busy highways, changing road conditions and the consequences of distracted driving, including texting.

Staff from the high school and Shell Canada agreed distracted driving was a problem they wanted to address, said Mark Sherman, a superintendent with the Lambton Kent District School Board.

“You pick up the newspaper any day and you see something tragic about some eighteen year-old or nineteen year-old with everything to live for — a seconds-long distraction and they’re no longer with us.”

The simulator is expected to arrive in May and be operational this fall for students in senior level transportation technology courses, and eventually by a wider student body.

It was developed by the Canadian firm Virage Simulation and has eight different modules. The distracted driving module creates scenarios that challenge users in a hyper-realistic way, Sherman said.

“There’s not too many schools in Canada that have this,” he said. “It’s mindboggling what this machine can do. It’s going to be very real world, very authentic.”

The simulator was made possible by an $80,000 contribution from Shell.

“Thanks to this incredible technology anyone who uses the simulator will learn valuable lessons that will not only help to make them better drivers, but may even save lives,” said Karen Miller, general manager of the Shell Manufacturing Centre.

The OPP has reported that distracted drivers were involved in roughly twice as many road deaths last year as impaired drivers.

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