The Upstate Trauma Center in Syracuse introduced employees to its new virtual driving simulator today ahead of the busy summer driving season. The simulator is unique because drivers get to sit in an actual car and allows people to move the steering wheel. The front tires of the car rest on elevated platforms with high tech sensors capturing the movement. Trauma Outreach Coordinator Jerry Morrison prepares drivers before they take a virtual spin.
“There’s a number of different scenarios that are built into the system. Some of the things that we add in would be going through and sending a text to a phone and having the person driving it go through and handle that text message like they might, or change the radio station or grab a drink. Things that unfortunately do rather commonly while driving and this helps them to see what impact that can actually have on their safety and the safety of others.”
Upstate unveiled the virtual simulator to their employees today. May is National Trauma Awareness month. Unfortunately, graduations and proms tend to be the busy season for the trauma center. Injury Prevention Coordinator Kim Nasby encourages parents to have conversations with their teens about safe driving.
“I would love to never have to call another parent to tell them that their child is here due to a motor vehicle crash… or even worse, that they’ve lost their own child due to a motor vehicle crash. It is the most difficult part of the jobs that we do here at the trauma center.”
She adds that motor vehicle crashes rank in the top three of emergencies they deal with. Nasby says the technological updates to dashboard displays on newer vehicles with advanced options las led to an increase of distracted driving accidents. Trauma Medical Director Dr. Bill Marx and his team have seen their share of patients involved in serious accidents. He explains that people have a false sense of reality behind the wheel.
“They (drivers) don’t have all of their faculties when they’re going fast and they also don’t understand how close, close is… and being able to stop in a safe fashion and how speeding causes some of the accidents and you don’t really pay attention to things if you’re distracted by anything.”
Marx agrees that not everyone on the roads has the foresight to envision what could go wrong.
“Especially, if you’re on a motorcycle the likelihood of being o.k. is very small. And the same thing if you’re driving at a high rate of speed and run into the guardrail or another car. You can be very seriously injured and sometimes lose your life.”
Marx says some drivers also don’t recognize how much being under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs their ability to drive safely. The Upstate Trauma team plans to bring the simulator to schools to coincide with their “Let’s Not Meet By Accident Program” to further educate teens about how impaired or distracted driving can prove to be extremely dangerous.