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A DUI and texting-while-driving simulator at the Kittitas County Fair this year uses 4-D glasses and realistic effects to take drivers through a one mile, three-minute course along a beach and cityscape.

The Kittitas Community Network and Coalition, State Farm Insurance and the Washington State Patrol offered the booth for the first time for virtual drivers ages 14 and older to experience.

Trooper Darren Wright, the public information officer for District 6 of the Washington State Patrol, said the virtual tour aims to give people the skills to make better choices.

“When you’re driving, drive,” he said. “Don’t drive distracted.”

The course simulates real wheel steering, braking, gas and gears, said Martin Burke of UNITE international’s Arrive Alive Tour.

If collisions occur, the driver will hear a big loud crash, he said. It’s complete with other drunk drivers and texting drivers. The tour delays drivers’ reaction time by literally delaying the speed at which drivers are able to react with the car technology.

Realistic consequences

Regardless of all the simulated technology, Burke said the course presents completely realistic consequences of driving with impaired focus.

“There are people on the course,” he said. “You can kill somebody.”

Burke said the tour is about education and awareness, and it aims to get past the notion that these issues don’t effect the population at large.

“People just don’t think that it will happen to them,” Burke said.

Wright said part of the problem is that drivers don’t realize just how much of their focus is taken from texting. He said that drivers are four times as likely to get in an accident from texting and driving then from driving drunk. The numbers of accidents caused by texting and driving are staggering, he said.

Corey Anderson, 24, of Cle Elum tried out the virtual tour Friday and experienced what it would be like to drive drunk. During his simulated drive he was cited for speeding, swerving, driving on the incorrect side of the road, failure to stop and vehicular manslaughter.

“You could be drunk, be behind the wheel, and have pretty much the same experience,” he said. “It’s pretty wild.”

A common problem

Wright said texting while driving is common in town and on the freeway, and it’s important that people understand the consequences.

“Would you line your family up on the side of the road, put a blindfold on and drive down the street through them?” he said. “No. It’s dangerous. You wouldn’t risk that. But that’s what you’re doing when you text and drive.”

Wright said drivers going 55 mph on the freeway will travel the length of a football field in the four seconds it takes them to send a text.

The consequences of these actions, though expensive, can be priceless, he said.

“If you get in a wreck and kill somebody — you can’t put a price on a life,” Wright said.

Most drunk driving accidents occur with a blood alcohol concentration between .06 to .10, which causes slower-than-normal response time, according to a handout from the tour. While the tour can delay reaction time to give virtual drivers the experience of driving under the influence of alcohol, it cannot account for the full experience.

“Other effects of intoxication such as impaired judgement, the thing that causes a drunk person to make the decision to reach for the keys in the first place, cannot be simulated by a software program,” the handout reads.

Monetary penalties

Texting and driving can result in a $124 ticket and average DUI expenses equate to about $10,000, Wright said. He said these tickets are very expensive, and can be life altering.

“All because you decided to make a bad choice,” he said.

Prior to participating in the virtual tour, drivers sign a pledge to not drive distracted, and upon completing the tour they receive a pledge card. Burke said the hope is that people will place the card on their key ring so they’ll be reminded to drive focused.

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