Simulator puts students on the road to safety - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Simulator puts students on the road to safety

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Posted: Monday, May 10, 2004 10:01 am | Updated: 6:05 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

May 10, 2004

An orange Cadillac rumbled in the wrong direction toward Greg Spier as he pulled his "car" into a parking space, a white Ford following close behind.

It seemed real, but Spier, 16, was actually in a room of simulators — black seats in front of steering wheels and side mirrors, with speed and gas gauges, brake and accelerator pedals and parking brakes hooked up to a computer that grades students on their performance.

The simulators run future drivers through different driving experiences to teach them to follow correct road instincts.

For Spier, it’s helped him learn to watch for things — like the cars he’s "hit" in the simulator after they’ve suddenly pulled into his lane.

"It’s important — you don’t want to harm other people," he said from his Red Mountain High School classroom in Mesa.

When teenagers want to drive up to the lake, the development of the frontal lobe of their brain is not likely on their minds. But experts say this part of the brain, which may not fully develop until age 22, allows multitasking — checking mirrors, signaling, turning — and could play a major role in whether they’ll have an accident.

That’s where driver education simulators can help, according to Spier’s teacher Tom Markley.

Skylar Mohr, 16, said the simulators have shown him the importance of repetitive scanning, signaling and leaving space between cars.

"It helps you react if a little kid comes running into the road," said Darin Smith, 15.

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