A new driving school in Kennewick, Wa., gives students hands-on demonstrations of how dangerous it can be to let their attention wander from the road, says the Seattle Times. One classroom exercise requires students to look for a ringing cellphone and read a text message, and see how long that pulls their attention away from driving. For most students, it’s three-fourths of a second just to react to the ringing, and another six seconds or so to find the phone and read the message.
The whole exercise takes about seven or eight seconds, said Mike Beckelhymer, principal of 911 Driving School. Seven or 8 seconds at 60 mph can translate into as much as 640 feet of pavement – a pretty long distance to have one’s eyes off the road fishing for a phone or fiddling with a radio. “That’s the length of two football fields,” Beckelhymer said. The school uses hands-on exercises and real-world police experience to teach teenagers how to enter the world of driving safely. All instructors are working or retired police officers. The original 911 Driving School was started in Puyallup by a couple of police officers who got tired of being called to crashes involving teens, Beckelhymer said. “They felt they could do a better job because they do this for a living,” he said. They eventually expanded and created a franchise, and now schools have spread in Washington and other states.