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Distracted driving simulator makes students think twice about texting and driving

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BATON ROUGE - April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and one insurance company wants to make sure you know the risk.

Allstate is letting people like Marcus Winston get behind the wheel to text, drive and crash in a simulator. Winston is a freshman at Southern University, and like many people, lives on his phone. Unfortunately, sometimes that results in distracted driving.

"I know a couple of people who text and drive," Winston said. "I text and drive myself."

Lucky for Winston, he never knew what it was like to be in a wreck until this week.

Winston crashed in a simulator brought to college campuses like Southern, by insurance company Allstate. It is a stationary car with a steering wheel, gas, brakes and phone access. For the demonstration, students were encouraged to text and drive, with an LED screen showing the road ahead.

"It can show you how quick it is to have a wreck," Winston said. "We don't even notice how quick it is. I think this is awesome."

Most students did not make it very long in the car before ramming into a tree or veering off the road.

"I texted her back and hit another car, then wrecked," Southern student Quin Brass said.

"A car pulled out in front of me," Southern student Jireh Webster added. "I wasn't really expecting it."

More than half of all accidents are caused by phone-related incidents, a statistic that local insurance agents are trying to correct.

"Being an agency owner and being an agent for over thirty years, I've seen many accidents, many fatalities and many deaths due to just carelessness of the driver," Baton Rouge Allstate Agency Owner Rosalind Campbell said. "Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of young deaths, which breaks our heart, so if this could just help one percent of our drivers, it's worth it."

Allstate is driving home the message that one text is not worth one life, something the students now want to share with their friends.

"I don't want to text and drive anymore because you can easily kill yourself by trying to text back a text that doesn't really mean anything," Winston said.

"Stop if you are doing it," Webster said, "It causes accidents and it costs lives."

It is against the law to text or post on social media while driving in Louisiana. It is also illegal to use your phone in a school zone. The first offense could cost up to $500. 

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