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Southfield students get a lesson in distracted driving

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Southfield – Jordan Cullins, 17, was notorious for texting and driving, until he received a phone call telling him that his sister had been in a near-fatal car accident.

University High School Academy senior Karley Foster, 17, gets behind the wheel of the AT&T VR driving simulator during the “It Can Wait” Road Tour stop at University High School Academy in Southfield on Nov. 18, 2015. While looking through the Google Glass googles, students witnessed the perils of distracted driving up-close.

“Her car flipped over because she glanced down at her phone. I could have lost someone that was near and dear to me because of a small object,” said Cullins, a senior at Southfield High School. “That was a real eye-opener for me.”

Cullins and other students from Southfield and University high schools got a high-tech reminder Wednesday of the dangers of distracted driving.

The teens took turns behind the wheel of a virtual reality simulator that mimicked what can happen to drivers who look away from the road to text, check email or update their Facebook status on a smartphone.

AT&T, one of the largest mobile phone providers, brought the simulator to Southfield High’s auditorium as part of a national safety campaign, “It Can Wait.” The campaign also will visit City High School in Grand Rapids on Thursday and the Secretary of State Super!Center in East Lansing on Saturday.

CJ Johnson, an AT&T tour spokesman, said the company wants people to take distracted driving as seriously as drunk driving.

“Our goal is to make this socially unacceptable for everyone,” said Johnson of Rochester. “Three seconds to check a text that says “LOL” is not worth losing a life over.”

Each day, nine people are killed in distracted-driving crashes, while more than 31 percent of U.S. drivers, ages 18-64 admitted to reading a text or email while driving, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

University High senior Karley Foster, 17, called the simulator “very realistic.”

“While looking at the phone, I almost killed someone twice,” Foster said. “If I see my friends trying to text, I will try and grab their phone or offer to send the message for them. This is a serious issue.”

Monica Harper, 17, held back tears while watching the “It Can Wait” promotional video. After using the simulator, she was asked how dangerous it is to drive distracted from a scale of 1 to 10. Harper’s reply was 12.

“I used to Snapchat and drive all of the time because I saw myself as a good driver. After watching this video, I have been really lucky to not have been in any accidents,” said Harper, a senior at University High School. “This is a life-changer for me and now I tell all of my friends that it can wait.”

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