PEERS Foundation brings distracted driving simulator to Prep


September 26, 2019

The country’s most advanced distracted driving simulator made its trip to Erie, Pennsylvania, and visited Prep on Sept. 11. This was made possible thanks to the partnership the PEERS foundation has with State Farm Insurance. The PEERS Foundation, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has the goal of raising awareness of how dangerous distracted driving can be. The goal is to help students learn through simulation in a controlled environment on what not to do behind the wheel. Mr. Schreffler, the Cathedral Prep health and physical education teacher, brought all of his sophomore health classes out to the simulator on this day, and each student got to experience the simulator. 

Here is how it all works. The ARDDES, or Augmented Reality Distracted Driving Education Simulator, features new emerging technologies, like eye tracking software and augmented reality. The purpose of this is to show students how long they take their eyes off the road while using their phones. Participants in ARDDES simulations sit in the driver’s seat of an immobile vehicle with key function features, which include a steering wheel, turn signals and pedals. The students will have on a Meta2 head-mounted set that displays realistic scenarios right in front of them. Similar to real life, ARDDES drivers must make quick decisions regarding traffic, pedestrians, passengers, and cell phones in order to avoid potential collisions.

The students were asked what effect the driving simulator had on them as they get ready to drive. 

“The distractions really make a difference,” said sophomore Jacob Vandee.  “When I pulled out my phone, I could not see the road at all.” 

When asked if they experienced something eye opening, a few students had something to share. 

“I learned how important power steering is when driving a car,” said sophomore Will Peterson. 

Sophomore Collin Hudson also had this to say about the experiences and what he learned from them, “Probably how fast the car can get away from you.” 

Some of the students, however, had some critiques about the simulator, saying that it was unrealistic in certain ways. 

“It was not as realistic as I anticipated, said Sophomore Joseph Fournier. “When you accelerated, it was like accelerating in a $3 million car.”

Even though there were a few critiques, the entire class raised their hand when asked if the simulator should be brought back next year for the upcoming freshmen. Mr. Schreffler had only praise for the simulation, and thought it was a huge success in its first year in coming to Prep. 

“It was really realistic,” he said. “When you would look up from your phone while driving, someone or something was right in front of you. It teaches the students a valuable lesson on distracted driving.”

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