RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - They're in the driver's seat, phone in hand. Students at James River High School are texting behind the wheel.
A new simulator course from DRIVE SMART Virginia and State Farm made its debut today in Chesterfield to show students the consequences of texting while driving, one crash and crushed cone at a time. They travel down a virtual street in an SUV. Others text while operating golf carts. Tenth grader Jake Sheehan takes a spin on a trike with his phone, knowing this reckless behavior is a reality for too many of his classmates.
"It scares me because we're sharing the road and they're texting and driving," he says while watching all the activity around him. "Imagine doing that at 40 miles an hour, which is dangerous."
State Farm agent Prem Das adds, "If you can avoid that and prevent it, put your phones away, don't be tempted." Das says every day insurance companies handle cases involving teenagers who've been in fender benders or worse.
DRIVE SMART Virginia Executive Director Janet Brooking says this age group is also three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash because of distractions like texting. "We have to work hard to change the social norms to the point that it's not even considered acceptable to text and drive."
In 2013, Virginia made texting while driving a primary offense with fines starting at $125, but surveys show it's not stopping a lot of teen drivers. One student who asked that we didn't use her name says several of her friends do it regularly. "They think they can do it, but you don't really know your skills."
This new simulator course will stop at another two dozen high schools throughout Virginia this year, reaching about six-thousand students.
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