LIMA — She never saw the deer, but Samantha McDonnell saw the $384 ticket and $2,100 mechanics bill that flashed on the screen Thursday.
“I did not know there would be deer or pedestrians jumping out. I was focusing on the road,” the Rhodes State College student from Cridersville said after a try on a distracted driver simulator set up on campus Thursday.
Along with darting deer, vehicles ran red lights, other vehicles failed to stop at traffic lights and a pesky voice (a supposed passenger) urged drivers to answer text messages.
“The girl just kept wanting me to blow stop signs and go faster and call and text,” McDonnell said. “She was annoying enough. I just wanted to tell her to ‘shut up, I am driving.’”
Drivers sat down behind the wheel and watched the road on a computer monitor. The worst, McDonnell said, was when a police officer appeared behind her. The simulator came thanks to the Lima-Allen County Regional Planning Commission.
“It is pretty realistic,” said Jeff Osborne, of Lima Memorial Health Systems’ Level 2 trauma department. Osborne was on hand to get students started on the simulator. “I do think it is a very honest portrayal of it.”
Amy Livchak, coordinator of student activities, said Thursday was good timing for the activity, as spring break begins after today, and many students will be hitting the road.
Under a new state law, people under age 18 can be stopped and cited for texting while driving. It is a secondary offense for those over 18.
Driving was going well for OSU-Lima student Joseph Steiner, of Rockford, until another vehicle ran a red light and hit him. It was game over and a hefty cost to fix his vehicle.
“I tried to stop, but I couldn’t in time,” he said.
Steiner said the simulator reminds drivers of the problems, like the vehicle that hit him, that can happen without notice. Steiner didn’t listen to his “passenger” telling him to send a text. He avoids texting on the real road, too.
“I usually wait to text. If it is important, I will pull off to the side,” he said. “I have a girlfriend who worries about me. To ease her mind, I just save it for later. There is a time and place for everything. I would rather be safe than sorry.”
Zach Kreischer, an OSU-Lima student from Van Wert, didn’t text either, but did make a quick call while at a stop sign. He said he is more apt to text while driving if he is alone, but not when a passenger’s life is in danger. Kreisher said the simulator puts things in perspective.
“It helped me be aware of what is going on,” he said. “If something happens in real life, it is too late. In a simulator, you can think about it later.”