STAMFORD, Conn. — A student at Trinity Catholic High School looked down at his cellphone for a few moments while behind the wheel of a virtual car Tuesday.
A pickup truck suddenly stopped before him on the screen. Before the student had time to slam on the breaks, he had smashed into the simulated vehicle.
Fortunately, the student wasn’t driving a real car on a real street. But distracted driving scenarios like those play out on the roads each day.
“These things you see everyday literally on this street,” said Nick Prpich, a trainer on Arbella Insurance’s Distractology Tour, said from the company’s trailer. It was parked at Trinity Catholic on Newfield Avenue in Stamford, a high school that serves Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Wilton and beyond.
Students at the school will have the chance to get behind the wheel of one of two driving simulators through Friday. The Stamford stop on the tour is hosted by Bearingstar Insurance, which has an office in Darien.
Prpich said the simulator, which is targeted to drivers who have had a license for less than three years or who hold a learner’s permit, can handle about 100 students throughout the week. He said the students and the school are excited to have the simulator on campus.
“We’ve been getting a lot of help from the school,” Prpich said. “They’re really into it. So they were able to sign up a lot of students before we even arrived" on Monday.
When students try out the various computer scenarios, Prpich also asks them to engage in distracting driving behaviors. He will ask students to play on their cellphones, drink from a water bottle or listen to music while behind the wheel of the simulator.
These experiences can make teens safer drivers. Those who complete the training are 19 percent less likely to have an accident and 25 percent less likely to get traffic violations than others, according the company.
Sally Schneider, a sales consultant with Bearingstar’s Darien office, is an alumnae of the school and stopped by the simulator Tuesday morning to check it out. Schneider said the simulator would have been helpful to have in her days as a student there.
“This has been great for all students, and I wish in our days that we had something like this,” Schneider said. “I feel like if we had that, it would have been a huge benefit for all of us.”