Students learn dangers of distracted driving through simulators - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Students learn dangers of distracted driving through simulators

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Jim Jermain Jim Jermain
Nicholas Mihalovse Nicholas Mihalovse
Jennifer Shilling Jennifer Shilling
Cody Digre Cody Digre
La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Students piled into the gym at Logan High School Tuesday for a lesson about smart phones and their effect on driving. The "It Can Wait" program is a collaboration between AT&T, AAA, and the Wisconsin State Patrol. It's been to Logan before and held hundreds of other events across the state for the past 6 years. But this year, they have something new: virtual reality simulations.

"As they're doing that, they actually get the feeling of pulling out a phone and texting and ultimately the experience of crashing because of that distracted driving," said Jim Jermain, Regional VP of External Affairs for AT&T.

"It was kind of a cool experience," said junior Nicholas Mihalovse. "[It showed] how just the slightest of a look down and swerve can make a whole world of a difference."

December of this year marks 6 years since the Wisconsin legislature placed a ban on texting and driving.

"We are telling drivers both young and old, experienced and new, that it can wait," said State Senator Jennifer Shilling. "Distracted driving has some really serious consequences and that split second decision could stay with you for a lifetime."

However, a ban only is not enough. Last year, 24,000 crashes occurred in Wisconsin due to distracted driving with 103 ending up in fatalities. A huge reason why the State Patrol said these education sessions are extremely important.

"It's a work in progress, yes, but it's something we take very seriously in enforcing," said State Trooper Cody Digre.

Studies show that 7 out of 10 drivers use their phones behind the wheel. Since they are easy to conceal, law enforcement has to look for other signs.

"Are they swerving all over the place? Are they cutting in lanes of traffic? Are they slow? Are they fast? That's something else we take into consideration," Digre said. "They can claim that they didn't have it out, but their driving alone shows that something is hindering and something is not right."

Avoiding your phone in your car is an exercise in self-control, which many students at Logan took to heart.

"I think I'm just going to toss my phone in the backseat so I have no way to access it quickly," said Nicholas. "If I do hear the [notification], I have to pull over, reach back there and grab it and while I'm pulled over I can respond."

When it comes down to it, Nicholas said, it's ultimately up to the driver to choose to be safe.

AT&T offers a Drive Mode app that automatically senses when you are driving and sends a message to those attempting to contact you that you are behind the wheel and will return their message shortly.

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