Chapel Hill, N.C. — The Town of Chapel Hill Chapel Hill and police at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are letting motorists see just how texting and talking on cellphones can affect their driving.
The DriveSquare simulator in the lobby Wednesday of Fetzer Hall on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus put drivers through a course, measuring their driving skills and shows how quickly attention can be diverted by trying to use a cellphone to make a call or send a text.
Drivers who tried the simulator Wednesday morning said they were surprised at just how quickly they crashed when trying to drive while using the phone.
"It took me about 10 seconds, and I wrecked," UNC freshmen Caroline Hudson said. "It's not worth a life. A text is not worth someone's life or your own."
UNC's head football coach, Larry Fedora, was also on hand at the event. He didn't do so well either.
"I don't think you can try to look at something else and drive at the same time," he said.
It's all part of a campaign to educate drivers about the danger of distractions.
Texting while driving is already illegal in North Carolina, but town leaders will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. next Monday at Chapel Hill Town Hall on a proposed ordinance to ban cellphone use while driving.
Studies have shown drivers who use handheld devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
In 2009, nearly 5,500 people in the U.S. were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, and another 450,000 were hurt.
Data collected from the state Department of Transportation from 2004 to 2008 shows an average of 57,984 people a year are involved in crashes in North Carolina where distracted driving is a factor. More than 13,000 are injured and 119 die.
The North Carolina General Assembly voted in 2009 to make texting while driving illegal and troopers began issuing tickets in 2010 to drivers who violate that law. About 1,500 drivers have been cited.