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Driving simulation helps students learn about dangers of distracted driving

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BEAUFORT, Carteret County - North Carolina Highway Patrol officers were in Carteret County high schools to take students through driving simulations in an effort to educate new teen drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

The officers spent time at their first stop on Tuesday, East Carteret High School, where they not only talked to the students about the impact of driving while impaired or distracted but showed and let them feel what that could be like.

The simulation center felt very much like a video game with animation and sound effects to reflect possible real-life driving conditions and hazards. It was a reminder that while driving can be fun it is not child's play.

"One of my friends was texting and driving and ran right up into the ditch," said 15-year-old Rebecca Chadwick right after she left the drivers' seat of the simulation center. She was one of the students learning life lessons in this unique class.

"Everything everywhere came out really fast, it was intense," she said.

That's the sort of reality check the state troopers, who are based in Morehead City, hoped to get by taking the students through this driving simulation class.

"The purpose of this simulation is to let teens understand that once they get into the drivers seat, they need to put these cell pones down," said Trooper Rob Melby, who was one of three instructors. "What we want to show them is that as soon as you pick up that phone to text, how your judgment comes off and focus comes off and goes to something else."

He said things like texting or answering phone calls while driving, changing stations on the radio and even eating are some of the activities which take many drivers' attention off the road, especially teenagers.

"Their main focus should be driving," Melby said.

The instruction reinforced the lesson of how not keeping their eyes focused on the roads or making poor choices to be impaired by drugs or alcohol can be a matter of life and death.

"They see it as fun and games but they also have to realize how serious this is," said Melby.

Many of the students are new drivers while some are in the process of getting their driver's permit. The immediate concern the officers and school authorities have is that with prom season coming up many of them need to be reminded about the dangers of driving.

Charles Henry,18, another students who participated in the simulation, and just got his drivers license, said it was an eye opener.

"It felt kind of weird at first , it teaches me not to drink and drive and how to be safe and look out for others," Henry said.

A number of teachers took the opportunity to get involved. Many of them were surprised at how poorly they did with the simulation class, despite many years of experience driving.

The officers hoped that everyone who participated in the simulation would be reminded of the experience every time they buckled up to get on the road and that it would help them make good driving choices.

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