We hear about car crashes all the time that are linked to alcohol, texting, even sleep deprivation. Now, a group of students from Stevens Point hopes to help put an end to that trend.
Four seniors from Pacelli High School are part of a creative problem solving competition called Destination Imagination. As part of their team challenge, they came up with the idea to teach others about the dangers of driving impaired or distracted by using an interactive driving simulator.
Courtney Kizewski, Max Lundgren, Sydney Otis and Katie Olson raised $10,700 to buy the computer program. At an unveiling Wednesday night, they showed everyone who helped donate to their cause how it works.
The simulator comes with a steering wheel and a gas and break pedal. Once they log on, drivers can choose to either drive impaired or distracted.
"Now all of the reaction times, like when I press on the break, it doesn't press right away," Kizewski said.
The simulator shows drivers what can happen if you drink, text, talk on the phone, and in general aren't alert on the road. It even calculates how much a ticket would cost, how much jail time you could face and the impact your actions could have on others. The students say that impact hits close to home for many of them, and was the main reason they chose to educate their peers about this community problem.
"The death of Joey Trzebiatowski had a really big effect because he went to school at Pacelli," Otis said. "And even if you weren't friends with him, it affected the whole school."
On April 29, 2012, Pacelli graduate Joey Trzebiatowski and two other young men died in a tragic car crash. Alcohol was to blame.
"We knew that from our personal experiences that something like this could really save that pain that a lot of people had to deal with," Otis said.
The two people who have felt the most pain: Joey's parents. They have also been some of the program's biggest supporters.
"It's a tremendous way to honor his memory," said Joey's mom Becky Trzebiatowski. "The consequences are far reaching. And if students or the public can be made aware of some of those consequences by changing their choices, we thought that it was really a worth while effort."
The simulator isn't staying at Pacelli. The students are planning on taking it to several schools in the area for a series of presentations, before handing it off to Mid State Technical College to use for their criminal justice program.
"We don't want it to sit around," Otis said. "We want a bunch of people to use it because we worked so hard to get it."