Outside the Traveler’s game Saturday night at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, people were being encouraged to text and drive, as long as they were willing to face the consequences.
Allstate Reality Rides is a national campaign that will travel to nearly 40 cities this year. The tour consists of a car affixed with a virtual reality screen that simulates the feeling of driving down a street at 45 miles per hour. Drivers are provided a cellphone that simulates the realities of distracted driving in the modern age. It's the first time this tour has visited Little Rock.
Allstate Insurance representative Allison May said the Reality Rides tour, which started two years ago, has received positive feedback from Allstate customers and those who have tried the ride during it’s tour across the state so far.
“If you hit someone, it’s safe, but there is a reality to it,” May said. “This is going to be one of the only times you’re encouraged to text and drive.”
The motivation for the tour is clear. In 2010 to 2011, there were 400,000 motor vehicle accidents in which someone was injured as the result of a distracted driver, May said.
In Arkansas, car wrecks happen at nearly twice the national average, Manager of Operations at Children’s Hospital’s Injury Prevention Center Susan Cohen said. The Injury Prevention Center, which is sponsored by Allstate, was present to educate young drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. Cohen said since graduated licenses were put into place for teenagers in Arkansas, teen fatalities due to car accidents have decreased 57 percent.
Graduated licenses outline rules for teens beginning to drive including limiting the number of passengers allowed in the car, restricting the time after dark they can drive and also putting harsher punishments on teens who get into car accidents within the first six months of driving.
Dawn Porter, another member of the Injury Prevention Center team, said for every teen passenger in a car with a teen driver, the chances of getting into a wreck increase by 40 percent. Teens are also three times more likely to crash at night than adult drivers.
“A lot of it is just inexperience,” Porter said.
Little Rock police were also present at the event, handing out fake tickets to people getting out of the virtual car, detailing where the person went wrong and how many infractions they would have received if they had been driving in the real world.
Most who came out of the car were surprised at how poorly they did driving the car. John Robertson, 31, of Bradford said it was a lot harder than he expected.
“It was way different than driving an actual car, though,” Robertson said.
After the ride, participants were asked to take a pledge promising not to text and drive. Those who took the pledge put their thumb prints on a board as a promise to keep their "thumbs up and off their phones" while driving.