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Driving the lessons home
Mountain Valley High School senior Kyle Duguay tries to text and drive during a Maine Bureau of Highway Safety computer driving simulation program. At right is Johannah Oberg, a highway safety coordinator with the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
RUMFORD -- Through the use of computer driving simulators, juniors and seniors at Mountain Valley High School learned about the consequences of distracted driving last Wednesday.
The sessions were part of the high school's Keeping Students Safe Program, which will feature a different session every Wednesday until Memorial Day.
One texting and driving simulation had senior Kyle Duguay behind the wheel, trying to text on a dash-mounted cell phone while driving. While he maneuvered through the program, his actions were projected on a large screen on the stage for students to watch as he attempted to text and drive.
Following his turn with the driving simulation program, Gauvin noted, "There was a lot of stuff going on. You've got to pay attention. It was hard to text and drive."
It is one of 600 programs in the One Simple Decision curriculum software being used in two portable driving simulators purchased by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety through a grant from Ford Motor Co. last August.
Sessions involved texting and driving, impaired driving, the consequences of getting caught, charged and convicted, and how operating under the influence can ruin future job opportunities.
They were taught by Johannah Oberg, a highway safety coordinator with the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, Robert Annese, the bureau's law enforcement liaison, and Rumford Police Sgt. Tracey Higley.
Annese said the machines, valued at $8,000 apiece, work like a video game, which appeals to the young people. "The kids enjoy them, and it makes them think. With teens, the more they hear about texting and driving, the better it is. It's always in the back of their minds."
The timing of the computer driving simulation program was impeccable as a month later, Maine passed a law making it illegal to text and drive.
Annese said more than 3,000 students have tried this driving simulation program, with a lot more watching the program being used.
They are so popular that when they are in the schools, he said there's waiting lines to use them. These machines are often asked for by law enforcement and driving instructors as well.