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Distracted driving exercise comes to Regina

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published October 4, 2019

  Regina High School senior Madelyn Gracin tries out the Augmented Reality Distracted Driving Educational Simulator Sept. 26.

Regina High School senior Madelyn Gracin tries out the Augmented Reality Distracted Driving Educational Simulator Sept. 26.

Photo provided by Regina High School

WARREN — The Students Against Destructive Decisions, or SADD, club at Regina High School is always finding ways to encourage good choices among its classmates.

On Sept. 26, the all-girls Catholic high school welcomed representatives from the nonprofit Peers Foundation, who presented a distracted driving seminar using their Augmented Reality Distracted Driving Educational Simulator, or ARDDES.

The workshop was made possible through the support of Tom Sokol’s Farm Bureau Insurance agency in Macomb Township. Sokol’s daughter Nadia, a sophomore, is a SADD member. General Motors Co. helped put together the distracted driving simulator.

“Peers Foundation is an educational organization dedicated to the education and prevention of distracted driving,” said instructor Bill Dodge, who was at Regina last month with Peers Foundation team leader Orlando Estrada and educator/technician Derek Duzan.

The Peers Foundation, located in Grand Rapids, also focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education; opioid addiction; teen suicide prevention; and vaping.

ARDDES is an actual car equipped with technology that allows participants to experience various distractions while driving on the road. The system allows the driver to drive through a virtual city while seeing the actual interior of the car. This allows drivers to safely experience distractions like texting, checking social media, or using the radio or navigation system while driving. It changes driver behavior by showing the user what happens when engaging in this risky behavior.

The Regina students came outside class by class to use the simulator. According to the Peers Foundation, distracted driving is the No. 1 cause of fatalities for drivers ages 16-29.

“Smart devices and activities like texting while driving have caused driver fatalities to rise at unprecedented levels,” states the Peers Foundation website,

Drivers also can become diverted when using GPS units, adjusting music or controls, applying makeup, talking to others in the car, not looking at the road, zoning out, handling children or pets, or by being sleep deprived.

ARDDES has eye-tracking software that determines how long the tester’s eyes were off the road during the experience. Peers Foundation representatives are able to accumulate data from the schools they serve.

According to the data, the average person using ARDDES has a major crash in less than three minutes, and 83% of people who go through the ARDDES program put their cellphones down when they drive. Certificates are presented to those who finish the ARDDES program successfully.

The seriousness of distracted driving really hit home when the Regina students viewed a video in which a young woman talked about losing her brother in a car crash because of someone else’s distracted driving.

SADD President Bella Denier and SADD Secretary Kaitlyn Mack, both seniors, were grateful the Peers Foundation visited the school with ARDDES. There are about 25 SADD members at Regina. The group generally meets two to three times per month.

One event coming up in October is Red Ribbon Week, a national program dedicated to educating students about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and violence. For one week, often in the latter part of October, students and educators throughout the country hold activities.

“We focus on everyone’s safety,” Mack said.

On one of the days, SADD students will distribute yellow ribbons to remember those who have died by suicide, and they’ll hold a moment of silence for those who have taken their own lives. SADD students will tie red ribbons on cars in honor of Red Ribbon Week.

On another day, students will send “Boo to Drugs” message grams to each other to say no to drugs.

“SADD is to prevent bad decisions. Bad decisions can lead to worse things that can really change your character,” Denier said.

Denier believes peer pressure leads young people to make bad decisions. Some people also are looking for attention.

“It’s mostly a stress reliever,” Denier said.

“Within our society, the bad decisions might seem cool, but in reality, it’s not,” Mack said.

“I love this club,” Denier said. “It gets everyone involved. I love helping out the community and giving back.”

“I agree,” Mack said.