Ramona Rodriguez’ day was rudely interrupted by a car crash in a suburban neighborhood, a result of her texting while driving.
Fortunately for Rodriguez, a WVU Medicine trauma program manager, the accident wasn’t real. She and other representatives from Trauma Services were gathered to demonstrate One Simple Decision, a computer simulator that mimics the experiences of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while distracted.
The simulator debuted at Morgantown High School recently and will be used at public events, dovetailing with the nurses’ traditional Trauma Nurses Talk Tough program, which offers information about the consequences of inappropriate driving behavior. The simulator is used along with impairment goggles, which distorts vision as if the wearer were intoxicated while on foot. The wearer is asked to walk along a straight line on a mat, similar to a law enforcement sobriety test.
Aimed at ages 14-21, the simulator piqued the curiosity of the high school students. They were excited and enthused to try out the new equipment, according to Holly McCulley, pediatric trauma coordinator.
“You watch them walk into the room and they’re like, ‘what’s that?’ It gives you that open to talk to them because a lot of times they just turn you off.
“The teacher said [the students] were sitting on the bleachers at lunch after one of the classes and they were talking about it. Getting a high school kid talking about anything like that is remarkable.”
The $11,000 simulator, made by Virtual Driver Interactive, was funded by a $5,000 grant Rodriguez secured through State Farm Insurance. The rest of cost was absorbed by a network of sponsors who fund Trauma Services’ annual Night of Recognition.
The trauma team hopes to take the simulator out to high schools, local universities, including West Virginia University, health fairs and other public places.
“We’re very excited and grateful to have it,” McCulley said. “We’d like to get it out as often as possible into as many different environments as we can.”