Simulator teaches drivers to keep eyes on the road

Nearly five years ago, the trauma newsletter ran a story about Mayo Clinic's new distracted driving simulator — an interactive device that allows users to experience the dangers of distracted driving first hand. The simulator has been used to help teens and adults understand why texting, talking on the phone or anything that takes attention off the road can lead to fatal accidents. More than 3,000 people died from distracted driving incidents in the U.S. last year alone.

Now, thanks to a donation from State Farm, the Southern Minnesota Regional Trauma Advisory Committee (SMRTAC) has acquired its own simulator — and it's for hire, says Peggy Sue Garber, trauma and injury prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, Minnesota, and chair of the SMRTAC Injury Prevention subcommittee.

"We will loan out the simulator to any reputable organization; so far, it's mainly been used in trainings by law enforcement and EMS and for educational purposes at high schools, especially during prom and graduation season, but it's available to other groups, too," she explains.

Distracted driving simulator in use Distracted driving simulator in use

The simulator consists of a computer screen, steering wheel, pedals and impaired vision goggles.

Simulator cases Cases for distracted driving simulator

The simulator comes packed in two wheeled cases.

The simulator consists of a portable computer screen, steering wheel, pedals and goggles that simulate impaired vision. SMRTAC and other volunteers, including Gold Cross Ambulance, will deliver and pick up the device, which comes packed in two wheeled cases. Use of the simulator is free for those who run it themselves. There is a $100 fee if a SMRTAC volunteer sets up and runs the device.

Demand is already high, and Garber says it may take a few days to coordinate pickup and delivery schedules, but so far all requests have been met. Groups and organizations interested in using the simulator can fill out a request form on the SMRTAC website.

The simulator-for-rent program is a cooperative effort. "We're working with Toward Zero Deaths, Farmfest and other organizations to reach our common goal, which is to reduce the mortality of trauma patients in our state," Garber says.

For more information

SMRTAC driving simulator request form. Southern Minnesota Regional Trauma Advisory Committee.