SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A new device is helping teenagers understand the dangers of texting and driving.

It has just gone into service in Rockland County, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Thursday.

All you have to do is watch the teenagers’ eyes to get a sense of the danger of driving while distracted by a smartphone.

“The phone is such an important part of their lives. It’s almost like an extension of their hand,” Ramapo High School acting principal Michael Phillips said.

tandd Texting And Driving Simulator Teaches Rockland Students Valuable Lesson

By using a simulator, students at Ramapo High School learned firsthand the dangers of texting and driving. (Photo: CBS2)

Which is an issue when young drivers should keep both hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, even for a digital drive through a computer-generated landscape.
Such a scenario was provided by a texting and driving simulator that the students got to use on Thursday.

“You’re texting, so you can’t really focus on driving. You’re trying to focus on both of them. It’s hard. You might just hit something, like I did,’ Ramapo senior Edger Thomas said.

It’s amazing technology, with five screens providing a 360-degree experience, complete with side- and rear-view mirrors.

The dangers suddenly appear, just like in the real world.

“So we can actually show them live what would happen versus it actually happening on our streets, and maybe saving lives,” Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco said.

The sheriff worked with other community leaders to raise the $26,000 needed to buy the simulator, which is also used to teach about drunk driving.

And it’s interesting to note that bad guys are helping the good guys teach these young people to be better drivers. Much of the money to pay for the simulator came from assets seized by people involved in criminal activity, Aiello reported.

Students said they found the entire experience engaging and sobering.

“I ran some people over and hit some cars, so I’m not gonna text and drive. It’s not the right thing to do,” junior Sirrat Ullah said.

The students tried simulated texting and driving and drew the right conclusion.

A recent AAA poll shows 94 percent of teenagers understand the dangers of texting and driving, but almost 40 percent of them do it anyway.

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