New MPI simulators test ability to text and drive
Manitoba Public Insurance simulators challenge teens to put driving skills to test while texting
Think you can text and drive? Manitoba Public Insurance is betting you can’t.
The public auto insurer has launched an online simulator that tests your ability to receive and respond to texts while obeying the rules of the road.
The simulator is aimed at young distracted drivers and also has a more realistic counterpart – a big, portable version with a steering wheel and gas pedals to be used at anti-distracted-driving events.
"Under this program, people will operate the simulator and drive in a simulated environment while they're receiving texts from their own smartphone and being asked to respond to those texts," said Ward Keith, with MPI.
The simulators are being used as part of a campaign called Your Last Words that asks young people to pledge not to text and drive after taking the tests. It also encourages them to share their experiences on social media.
“What we really want is for people to understand the risks and consequences of distracted driving,” said Kevin Glasier, who helped develop the simulator at Winnipeg’s Tactica Interactive. “We want them to experience it first hand in a safe environment.”
Chelsea Colomy tried out the simulator on Tuesday.
“It’s very hard. I don’t think it’s easy by any means,” she said.
The online simulator will be part of MPI’s drivers education programs. About 12,000 students take those programs ever year in Manitoba.
The launch of the simulators comes one day after a woman pleaded guilty two counts of negligence causing death and two counts of negligence causing bodily harm after a fatal October 2010 crash in Winnipeg.
The crash killed two teenage girls and put another in a coma for more than a month.
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The woman, who was 17 at the time of the crash, was drunk, speeding on cruise control and texting when she drove through a solid red light at St. Mary's Road and Bishop Grandin Boulevard.
Court heard the woman never hit the brakes.
On average in Manitoba, one in four road fatalities are linked to distracted driving, and in an average year, nearly 5,000 Manitobans are convicted for using a hand-held device while driving.
Right now, the conviction lands you a $200 fine and two demerits, but provincial officials are looking at increasing penalties for distracted drivers.