A simulator, parked on the ACC Rio Grande campus offered a challenge few students Tuesday could pass. Created by Allstate insurance, the simulator wraps a widescreen around the fount of a SUV. It provides a realistic look and feel.
Sara Spencer was among those who tried to drive while texting. "I thought I'd be better at this, because I’m a good multi-tasker, but this is definitely trickier than I thought,” said Spencer.
In a recent survey, 38% of Texas drivers admitted to talking on their mobile phone while driving.
21% said they read or send text messages and emails when behind the wheel.
According to TXDOT, each year more than 100,000 traffic crashes occur in Texas because of distracted driving. A wreck near Garner State Park may be the most recent case. A truck crashed into a church bus on Hwy 83 north of Uvalde. Jody Kuchler, a witness, claims he spoke to the driver moments after the collision.'
"The only thing he said to me is I'm sorry. I was texting and he asked for help,” said Kuchler.
The crash happened as state lawmakers consider another attempt at passing a statewide ban on texting and driving. Strong advocates for such a law are members of a Houston family; they traveled here to Austin, along with the simulator, to share their real life story of tragedy.
"Please think of us before you get behind the wheel,” said Willa Berry.
In 2011, Willa, Aaron and Peter Berry lost their parents to a distracted driver. The two brothers were paralyzed, but they and their sister refuse to be bitter. "We take what happened to us, and we thrive on that to protect other people to make sure it doesn't happen to them,” said Aaron Berry.
They're currently lobbying for HB 62, the texting and driving ban bill filed by Representative Tom Craddick ( R ) Midland. They don’t accept the argument it would be a government over-reach. "They said it was an infringement upon their rights, but what about the rights of the people who don’t survive,” said Peter Berry.
Supporters of the texting ban bill, like the Berry family, believe chances are good the legislation will eventually be sent to the Governor for his signature. As the legislative process continues, the Berry kids continue to collect pledges from people who promise not to text and drive. For those who ignore the risk, it’s hoped; they'll eventually get behind the wheel of a simulator; change habits and possibly change the debate.