Driving while high? Local college students see dangers firsthand

Virtual reality simulator shows dangers of driving high, drunk or while texting

DANVILLE, Va. – Danville Community College students hopped behind the wheel of a virtual reality simulator for a firsthand look at what can happen if they text and drive or drive under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.

UNITE's Arrive Alive Tour made a stop on campus Tuesday and let students try out the simulator, which was set up inside a parked car.

"These activities are dangerous behind the wheel. What other better places than the colleges, high schools, where we can actually have an impact," said Danielius Palebsaidis, who is a brand ambassador for the tour.

The simulator is unique because it's the only one of its kind that tours across the country at colleges and high schools.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk drivers caused 29% of all deadly car crashes in 2017, marijuana use in weekend nighttime drivers has jumped 48% in less than 10 years, and a first-time DUI offense can cost a driver more than $10,000 in fines and legal fees.

"Marijuana is being legalized all over the United States, and we still want to bring in the message that it's still an illegal thing to do behind the wheel," said Palebsaidis.

Students like Breana Karr -- who wants to be a paramedic -- said the experience was eye-opening.

"I did not expect it to be like that. It was very, like, blurry," Karr said.

The simulator works by slowing reaction times, blurring vision, and making it difficult to steer or brake.

After students completed the simulation, instructors gave out "tickets" for things like swerving, speeding, collisions or driving on the wrong side of the road.

Students said it was a lesson learned.

"It's very important for them to get this message out, because it's very dangerous and you can be risking other people's lives," Karr said.

The student events coordinator said the simulator was a success and a great educational resource, so the college would like to bring the simulator back every year.

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