NY teens learn about the perils of drinking, texting behind the wheel

CROWN POINT, N.Y. (WCAX) Every two minutes a person is injured in an alcohol related crash, sometimes with deadly consequences. Also on the rise is distracted driving, particularly among young adults. A hands on experience is teaching Essex County New York, students to think twice when they get behind the wheel.

Chelsea Wright is 16 and just got her license, like many of her classmates. The Minerva High School sophomore is new to the road and just got a crash course with the help of a virtual reality headset.

"That was a difficult thing to do," wright said. "To get behind the wheel and be impaired like that, it was a difficult thing to do."

Minerva High School, like many other schools in Essex County, are putting on the VR headsets and seeing for themselves what the Arrive Alive tour is all about.

"What it's like to drink and drive, text and drive or smoke marijuana and drive," said the tour's Damielius Balepsiagis.

The team travels around the country making stops at schools, festivals -- anywhere that impaired or distracted driving could be.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says drivers under the age of 20 are seeing more distraction related fatal crashes.

"It's a technology thing. They're used to it. It's second nature to them," said New York State Police Trooper James D'Ambro. "They don't have the skills to be behind the wheel and texting. They think they can do it all but we know they cant. We see it all the time."

While designed to be fun and educational for these students, police hope they take more away than a good time. "Only takes a second to get your eyes off the road, especially at highway speeds, and you are going to have an issue that you are not going to be able to recover from," D'Ambro said.

The program hopes to teach prevention, because in the end, it's up to the driver to make the decision of how they will operate their vehicle. "People are going to do what people are going to do no matter what happens, no matter what the prevention is, but at least we're giving them the tools to make a smart decision," D'Ambro said.

When students exit the simulator, they are given a ticket regarding either drinking, smoking or texting. A lot of the students were surprised that these acts had such serious repercussions, which can include arrest and upwards of $10,000 thousand in court fines and fees.

The Arrive Alive tour will also be making stops this week at the Essex County Fairgrounds in Westport on Tuesday and Wednesday, and at the Lake Placid Olympic Oval on Thursday.