Driving simulator educates Albion College students about dangers of driving while high

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ALBION, Mich. — Cole Schindler was pretty excited to get behind the wheel of an SUV parked in the middle of Albion College’s campus on Thursday. As soon as he got inside, he put on black simulator glasses and adjusted his hands on the steering wheel. 

Then the instructor asked him “which one would you like to try: drinking, texting, or smoking marijuana?”

“Let's do marijuana,” said Schindler, a senior at Albion College.

Immediately the simulator adjusted to his request.

“What the simulation itself does it mimics you being drunk,” said Arrive-Alive simulator instructor Danielius Palepsaitis. “We do have a little delay on the controls. And also if you’re drunk you have a quick tunnel vision there. If it’s marijuana, it just makes your eyesight a little bit brighter.”

Arrive Alive, an organization based in Grand Rapids that’s dedicated to ending distracted driving, hosted the daylong event at the school. Palepsaittis said he was thrilled to see dozens of students lined up for it. Their goal is to educate them about the dangers of driving while capacitated. 

“It’s just a fun interactive way to sit in a real car and try it too without actually doing it out on the road,” he said. 

Arrive Alive is the only organization in the state to provide a marijuana-driving simulator, Palepsaitis said.  And no matter what scenario the students chose, they made it as lifelike as possible.

“Even when I was trying to drive when I had control I kept swerving everywhere,” said sophomore Shelby Palmer. “It was hard for me to know when to slow down or stop. Everything was blurred. So I can understand why accidents happen when you’re incapacitated.”

During Palmer’s turn in the simulator, she hit someone. And when she stepped out to look at her results, printed on a sheet, it showed that she’d face charges and possible jail time if it were real life.

“We all need to be aware of what happens when you get behind the wheel,” Palmer said. “We need to understand that people’s lives are at stake when you choose to make that decision.”

Arrive Alive said they were on tour, making stops at high schools, colleges and military bases throughout the country. No matter where they go, they hope everyone comes to the same conclusion: No drinking and driving. No driving while texting. And, no driving while high. 

“Our main goal is to educate. Do it in a fun way,”  Palepsaitis said. “Hopefully we’ll make at least one person not to do it in real life.”

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