MultiCare hosts distracted driving course with hopes to decrease distracted driving deaths

SPOKANE, Wash. — Distracted driving is a big problem in Washington. Thirty percent of all crashes resulting in death in the state are because of distractions.

To combat this, MultiCare Deaconess Hospital put together a course to show just how easily accidents can happen when you take your eyes off the road for a few seconds.

It accounts for about 60 patients in the emergency room at Deaconess each month.

“We see at least 60 motor vehicle crashes a month and at least one-third of those are at very high speed”, said Jaclyn Numata, Trauma Program Coordinator for MultiCare Deaconess.

She said she’s seen drugs and alcohol play a factor in these accidents, but most of them come from distracted driving. It inspired her to show the community how dangerous it is to drive while distracted — without the risk.

Numata set up a distracted driving activity at Spokane ValleyFest. People put on goggles that simulated different types of driving distractions. Participants were then put to the test, to see how these distractions impacted their driving. The goggles simulate distracted calling, texting, and drowsiness.

“The goggles black out for 4.6 seconds,” Numata said. “And it intermittently does that. So as you’re driving through the course you can see that when you’re texting your eyes truly are off the road. And they’re not focused on driving. So they completely back out, and we like to tell people if you do that at high speed of 55 miles per hour like a highway or a freeway it’s like driving a whole length of a football field with your eyes closed.”

Although this was a fun activity with no real consequences, drivers learned quickly that taking their eyes off the road for even a few seconds could be life-threatening.

“We just want people to know that distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel or your mind off of driving. And distracted driving deaths are 100% preventable,” Numata said.

Others who drove the course with the goggles took away a similar lesson.

“At first it was fun and then when I got the distractions on I kinda started thinking about being on the actual road and being on my phone and it made a huge difference. I had a lot of emotions tied to it,” said Kaitlyn Tritt, a participant.

Tritt said just going a few runs on the course opened her eyes to the genuine consequences distracted driving can have on people’s lives, and vowed to change how she drives.

“I will put my phone in my bag or my pocket and keep it hands-free while I’m driving,” she said.

Numata added that she hopes this will reach younger and newer drivers the most, and hopes to eliminate texting and driving as much as she can in the community.

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