MANATEE -- Getting young drivers to understand the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or the distraction of texting while driving is a constant effort for schools.
IMG Academy, 5500 34th St. W., got this message across to its students at a UNITE Arrive Alive Tour on campus Wednesday.
UNITE brought its high-tech simulator, a SUV outfitted with computers and sensors, to campus so students could experience the possible consequences of making bad decisions.
Students got behind the wheel of the vehicle, donned a pair of goggles that projected a moving image of a road as they accelerated, braked or turned. Their reactions were modified based on the data inputted into the computer, such as having five alcoholic drinks in one hour.
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The experience impressed several of the students who visited the exhibit and simulator.
"I did not do that good," said Lucas de Francesca, a 16-year-old 10th grade golfer at IMG.
The Stockholm native said he tried the DUI simulation and "it was weird."
"It felt like everything was really slow and delayed," De Francesca said. "I had to pay attention to everything at the same time."
Tim Healy, director of campus life at IMG, said they are always looking for ways to teach the students beyond the classroom.
"It's why this week we welcomed the Arrive Alive Tour, and we've taken part in SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), and we have Anti-Bullying Week and Red Ribbon Week," Healy said in an email message. "Because ultimately our students are citizens of the world."
He said after the students leave IMG they will be "faced with choices all the time that will force them to deal with tough situations, which is why we aim to educate them well beyond what people traditionally think we do."
Chris Bennett, a UNITE simulator technician traveling around the nation with co-technician, Quinton May, said "421,000 people got into accidents because of distracted driving."
"It's all preventable," Bennett said.
Bennett and May have been taking the simulator to college and high school campuses since late August, talking to youth and giving them information about drunk driving or using your cell phone to text while behind the wheel.
UNITE is a Grand Rapids, Mich., company that provides programs to heighten awareness among young people about the dangers of drinking or texting while driving.
The simulation is created with an algorithm built on scientific tests results, May said.
The simulator experience reinforced sophomore Jillian Crespi's ideas about DUI and texting while driving.
"Drinking and driving is a bad thing," said Crespi, a 15-year-old basketball player who has her driver permit. "It showed me how much harder it is to keep your eyes on the road and drive."