Virtual reality simulates the impact of texting and driving for students

A partnership with AT&T let one high school show how dangerous the two can be together

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Used to be students would be drilled about the dangers of drinking and driving. Today, that message has to include texting. And that's the experience West Fargo High School in North Dakota pressed home, using a virtual reality simulator to show just how bad things could get if students don't keep their eyes on the road.

The high school worked with AT&T to put students into arcade-like cars, and strapped them into VR headsets with a crash simulation playing, according to a story from KVRR. Cars honked, alerts chirped and glass flew — all while in a safe virtual space. But the message hit home, as students appeared to come out of the simulator a bit shocked.

Distracted driving is a real concern and one that smartphone makers have tried to tackle, as 16 percent of all fatal crashes are related to people not paying attention while behind the wheel, according to the AAA Foundation.

Apple recently pushed out a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature on its iPhones. Android has something similar feature for its devices called Drive Safe. And AT&T offers a Drive Mode app, which works on both iOS and Android devices and automatically turns on when it senses you're moving faster than 15 mph by silencing alerts and calls, and sending a reply text message to people that you're driving and can't respond.

Some apps, like Waze and Pokémon Go, even have a shut-down mode if they sense that someone is using their interface while driving. But note — you can resume by simply clicking that you're a passenger, even if you're not.

There are VR games, like the VR Car Driving Simulator, which can give you a similar sense of being virtually behind the wheel of a car. But AT&T lets people experience their own It Can Wait simulation (complete with audible text pings) on their computer or their smartphone which is as close to the real scenario as anyone should get.

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