Students Learn Perils of DWI
White Plains HS students first to test county goverment's new computer-based driving simulator
March 11, 2009
Thanks to the county government, Westchester County’s schools have a new computer-based tool to help get the message to teens about the perils of drinking and driving but in a safe fashion.
On Wednesday students at White Plains High School were the first to test drive the new system. The students used the tool to get to experience what it is like to drive impaired or intoxicated.
“We are constantly exploring innovative ways to use technology,” said County Executive Andy Spano. Spano. “Many teens today are adept at using computer games, including road games. Why not build on that interest and teach them ways to be safe at the same time?”
“Learning how to drive safely is an important part of a young person’s education,” said County Board Chair Bill Ryan. “The simulator lets young people see for themselves how alcohol and drugs impact the ability to drive a vehicle safely. It’s an effective way to get the message across that drinking and driving don’t mix.”
The computer-based “driving simulator” builds on the success of the county’s mobile driving simulators purchased in 2004. The advantage of the new system is that it can be used from any computer in the classroom or at home giving educators an accessible anytime tool to promote good, safe driving. It is free to schools and educators.
The system works this way: Teachers can either provide their students with the computer program from the school’s Internet or provide them with a CD version. The students will receive a limited number of opportunities to negotiate the driving course, first in a normal, sober condition and then as an alcohol-impaired driver. (Sample lesson plans will be included in the CD.) Penalties are imposed for hitting other vehicles, pedestrians or buildings, speeding or moving too slowly, running stop signs or traffic lights, etc.
As part of the exercise, students hear real stories from people who have been impacted by drunk driving, including family members who have lost a loved one. Teachers may also require that students provide a written paper on that family’s story or any other topic related to drunk or drugged driving.
Mark Grob, managing member of VRshell LLC, approached the county more than 18 months ago with the concept of the DWI simulator and was provided a grant from the county’s Office of Drug Prevention and STOP-DWI and the New York State STOP-DWI Foundation to develop such a system. Grob worked with members of the county police and the directors of Westchester’s and Orange’s STOP-DWI offices to work in the true life stories of families affected by the tragic consequences of drunk drivers and to provide the technical details of drunk driving.The program was paid for with money generated from DWI fines; no taxpayer dollars were use.
The system has been tested by groups of young teenage drivers, traffic safety professionals and education professionals to make it as “user friendly” and as educational as possible.
The event was made possible with the efforts of Superintendent Timothy Connors, White Plains HS Principal Ivan Toper and Paula Dalto, student activities coordinator.
For more information on the simulator or to get a copy of the program for use in a local high school, contact Thomas Meier, Director of Drug Prevention and STOP-DWI, 112 East Post Road, White Plains. (Email: Tam7@westchestergov.com; phone: (914) 995-4115.)
Out of State inquries should be sent to email@example.com.