If you think you can drive safely while checking messages on your cellphone or texting a quick response to your friends, take a quick stop at the Cornwall Square Mall this week.
The Cornwall Community Police Service, in partnership with the Insurance Brokers of SD&G, Eastern Ontario Health Unit and the Rotary Club of Cornwall, has brought in a distracted-driving simulator to show you just how safe you are.
“The police board saw this equipment was being used up in Ottawa,” said Chief Dan Parkinson, who then asked Const. Matt Dupuis to look into what it would take to get one in Cornwall.
“Ottawa had it for their ‘Leave the Phone Alone’ campaign and they had it in a mall. They were showing people how to use it and (people were) realizing how distracting it actually was,” said Dupuis. Dupuis said the unit has also been used in Toronto.
“Other big municipalities have brought it in,” he said.
Pierre Lefebvre gave it a try Monday and found it was a real eye-opener.
“Definitely it was much more difficult than I was expecting,” said Lefebvre. “It makes you realize how any kind of small distraction can affect your driving.”
Lefebvre said the simulator taught him a good lesson.
“We all seem to have a tendency to think, ‘oh, it’s OK to look at my phone when I’m driving,'” he said. “After going through this experience, you realize the phone in the car should only be used when the car is pulled over.”
Cory Derouchie said it was a pretty good experience.
“I’m definitely never going to text and drive,” he said. “It’s a pretty good setup they have here.”
Derouchie agreed it didn’t take much to distract the him from the road.
Scott Dupuis called the simulator “cool,” and said he learned to not pick up the phone while driving.
“I wasn’t texting and driving beforehand so I’m certainly not going to start when I do drive,” he said.
Dupuis said even though the simulator was only running for about an hour, they were getting a lot of positive response from those who used it.
“The first couple of guys who used it right away realized they shouldn’t have their phones in their hands because they got distracted,” said Dupuis. “That is the major thing about this is – is to tell people things are going on around them without them realizing it.
“Yeah, you might be going down the same street every day, but that one kid is coming across the road and you are going to hit that one kid. The other scenario is a car comes into your lane. Yeah, it’s not your fault, but you might not live through that collision. If you would have been off your phone you might have seen the car coming.”
Dupuis said the simulator strengthens the message coming from police and all those involved in promoting injury prevention on the inherent danger of texting while driving. Local insurance brokers “didn’t hesitate” to contribute to the costs of bringing in the simulator.
The simulator will be available Tuesday from 1 p.m. until 9 p.m. and on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.