Dustin Fox, Staff Writer
On Wednesday, March 15, students were given the opportunity to experience a new way to learn the effects of driving while distracted or under the influence of alcohol. Arrive Alive sponsored a booth on the quad at Jacksonville State where students were invited to participate in a simulation using a real car and specialized glasses that made it seem as if they were on a real highway.
The booth was set up around an SUV that had been positioned on special sensors used to detect when the wheels were turned. Other sensors on the pedals measured acceleration and braking while the car remained in neutral gear with the engine turned off.
Surrounding the car were monitors that displayed what the driver was seeing through their glasses in real time. Staff from Arrive Alive initiated the simulation by figuring in increasingly higher Blood Alcohol Content levels, which in turn caused delays between what the driver saw and the car’s reaction times to the way they controlled it.
Nearly every test resulted in a crash. Drivers were unable to compensate for their delayed reaction times and crashed into virtual trees and pedestrians. After the simulation, students were given a survey to analyze their experience and its effect on their future decisions to drive under the influence. Staff also wrote mock citations for the virtual damage the drivers had caused.
Mallory McKenzie, who works with Arrive Alive, says she loves the newness of their program.
“It’s a unique way to get the message out about the dangers of drinking and driving or driving while distracted,” she said.
The company, based in Grand Rapids, MI, tours colleges and schools to provide the experience to students around the country. The simulation demonstrates the effects of alcohol on a person’s ability to drive, but the team also works to inform students about the dangers of texting while driving.
Arrive Alive offers an Android app that will automatically block incoming text messages for a driver who is traveling more than 10 miles per hour and can send responses to those messages that inform the sender that they are driving. McKenzie says this eliminates the urge to respond to notifications because the driver will not see them until the car is stopped.
JSU’s Office of Residence Life promoted the event, and Peggy Byrne, who serves on the Educational Programming Committee, says that this is not the first time the Arrive Alive simulation has made an appearance on campus. The annual event is part of their mission to help students develop themselves and enhance their lives while living and studying at JSU.
Arrive Alive’s motto, “Good Decisions Prevent Decisions,” promotes the positive message they hope to spread to drivers. The simulation uniquely drives home the reality of the consequences someone can face if they decide to get behind the wheel when they are distracted or under the influence.