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Distracted driving lessons go virtual

For most of us who live in and around Silicon Valley, technology seems to be the solution to most of life’s problems. Regardless of your problem, there’s probably a gadget, a widget or an app to help you out.

Of course, technology can sometimes be the problem, as it is in distracted driving. In spite of California’s stringent distracted driving laws and aggressive public awareness campaigns, too many car accidents continue to occur because drivers can’t seem to put down their phones.

Thankfully, there may be a technological solution to this problem as well. A number of companies and auto manufacturers are working on products that teach teenagers the dangers of distracted driving using virtual reality.

As just one example, Toyota’s TeenDrive365 simulator has teens strap on an “Oculus Rift” device over their eyes. While sitting in a real but stationary vehicle, the simulator gives them the experience of trying to drive a car while mitigating common distractions like text messages, conversations with passengers, traffic noises and the car stereo.

A Toyota spokesperson explained that “Oculus Rift provides a virtual reality driving experience that mirrors real life behind the wheel, giving us a powerful, one-of-a-kind way to show parents and teens how everyday distractions can affect their ability to drive safely.” It should be noted that when distractions become overwhelming, users often end up in a virtual crash.

Many similar devices by other companies seem to be in development or are already in use. Hopefully, these devices will become more widely available in the near future. All of us – not just teenagers – could probably use a strong reminder about the consequences of distracted driving.

Source: PC Magazine, “Test Your Teen’s Driving Skills With Toyota, Oculus VR Simulator,” Chloe Albanesius, Jan. 15, 2015

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