ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Parents who want to help prepare teen drivers for the road this summer will have a chance to put them behind the wheel at the Jackson Road Cruise – in a driving simulator.
The virtual reality simulator, designed to show both teens and adults the risks of distracted driving, will be available to the community from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the car show and cruise Saturday, June 11. Families can find the simulator at the Bel-Mark Lanes parking lot as part of the Kohl’s Drive Smart campaign supported by Kohl’s and University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
The event coincides with a $195,772 donation from Kohl’s to support the Drive Smart campaign launched to reduce distracted driving and related injuries and deaths. Since 2014, Kohl’s has donated more than $495,000 to Mott. The donations are made possible through the Kohl's Cares cause merchandise program. Through this initiative, Kohl’s sells $5 books and plush toys, where 100 percent of net profit benefits children’s health programs nationwide.
“We unfortunately see the tragic consequences of distracted driving at our hospital. Our campaign aims to reduce the preventable injuries and deaths traffic accidents cause every day,” says Mott Pediatric Trauma Program Manager Amy Randall.
“Through events like this one in the community and schools, we hope to reach teens before they form bad habits – as well as their parents and younger passengers who can also play a major role in reducing distractions on the road.”
The Kohl’s grant has allowed the Mott pediatric trauma program to develop a novel, evidence-based program designed to reduce distracted teen driving. The effort has included the creation of a new website (kohlsdrivesmart.org) offering toolkits and tips for families such as a teen-parent driving agreement. Organizers have also run an educational series for Ann Arbor eighth graders teaching young people how to be safe passengers when riding in the car with parents or older siblings. The program was developed in conjunction with U-M Injury Center and U-M Transportation Research Institute.
Summer months bring the most dangerous times on the road, with seven of the top 10 deadliest driving days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic accidents also continue to be the leading cause of death for American teens, with research pointing to distracted driving as a common culprit.
The simulator, run by the Michigan State Police, will expose “drivers” to several distractions as they maneuver the vehicle along streets, through intersections and turns. Drivers get a first-hand look at how something as simple as texting their boss to say they are running late for work can delay their response time to pedestrians and oncoming cars and how it can affect driving skills while attempting a left turn.
“Reading a text message or map directions while driving may not seem like a big deal to today’s teens. The simulator experience will help provide a reality check of how dangerous these activities can actually be,” Randall says.
Find more tools to help prepare your family for safe driving this summer at kohlsdrivesmart.org.