Watch and react

Students watch results on a computer screen as a classmate drives the Arrive Alive simulator March 2 at Peoria High School.

The Arrive Alive Tour made its way to Peoria High School March 2, giving students the chance to experience the dangers of texting and driving.

The tour puts students in an actual vehicle hooked up to a virtual simulator, allowing them to drive, while a computer screen shows fellow students what happens when a person texts while driving.

“This is a huge educational piece to get the message across,” Peoria Police Officer Brian Rauzen said. “We can tell them until we are blue in the face that they shouldn’t text and drive, but seeing something like this right in front of them is a huge difference.”

Angel Gracia, a Peoria High School student, got behind the wheel and was told to text, “I’m on my way home,” while driving on a road with a speed limit of 45 mph. Angel failed the test.

“It was pretty cool, but kind of scary about what happened to me with a short text,” Angel said. “I was swerving and driving on the wrong side of the road and then I drove off the road.”

While Angel was driving, 15 to 20 fellow students were watching the video screen of his driving on the wrong side of the road and then driving off the road.

“To do this with my friends laughing at the way I was driving, it really made it a little scary,” Angel said. “This is really awesome because it will make me think more, because I have even gotten into a car with friends who text and drive and now I will think twice before I get in the car.”

Two of the most commonly recognized driving distractions are cell phone use and texting and driving. Drivers younger than 20 are involved in more distraction-related fatal crashes than any other age group, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They also text more than any other age group, according to the NHTSA.

Allowing peers to watch and react to the students’ driving was better than a class, Rauzen said.

“Being in control of a vehicle and seeing and hearing their peers, it is a joke right now, but then in five or six seconds and they are all over the road,” Rauzen said. “When they do this simulator, it shows their speed increased by 10 to 15 mph, and it can be over in a blink of an eye, and we want to show them what happens in a real way.”

The Arrive Alive Tour travels throughout the country with its drinking while driving and texting while driving simulators that show the dangers of both. Rauzen said he would like the tour to go to all local high schools.

“We would love to get this to every single school, if it was available,” Rauzen said. “We have been able to do this through some grant money we received, but right now, it is just here (at Peoria High School). But if the funding was there, it would be a great demonstration to bring to all students to show what happens.”