New video game aims to scare young drivers safe

A new Internet video game may help teens and young adults understand how easily they can get distracted behind the wheel. The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Institute at the University of Minnesota is calling the game it developed “Distraction Dodger.”

Players drive a virtual pizza delivery vehicle in the imaginary pizza-loving city of Little Moots. To help build a successful pizza business, players are tempted to use a smart phone, social media, and GPS while driving. If they choose to distract themselves, they must do so while avoiding obstacles, traffic tickets, and of course, an accident.

As Distraction Dodger players progress through the game’s levels, they get feedback about their driving performance and level of distraction. Michael Manser, director of the HumanFIRST Program at the ITS Institute, says the feedback can be an eye opener.

For young drivers who believe they can do it all and not negatively affect driving, the Distraction Dodger game offers a reality check.

According to the National Safety Council, distractions are the leading cause of motor vehicle crashes. Texting or talking on the phone are particularly well-documented dangers, significantly slowing a driver’s reaction time and increasing the likelihood of a crash. Other driving distractions include talking with passengers, eating and drinking, using a navigation system, putting on makeup, shaving and adjusting the radio or music players.

Distraction Dodger will premiere at the Teen Safe Driving Summit on Thursday, Feb. 2, at the Rosemount Community Center, 13885 S. Robert Trail, Rosemount.