Most of us probably think we're pretty good drivers who can handle a little multi-tasking while behind the wheel without impairing our driving.
A Distracted Driving simulator at this year's Twin Cities Auto Show debunks that theory. The simulator compiles a list of traffic offenses that drivers make as they motor along residential and city streets while dodging traffic, pedestrians and even dogs and soccer balls that find their way into the street.
Of course, sitting at a table and using steering wheel and metal accelerator wired into a computer feels more like playing a video game than driving a car in real life, said Jake Dunham, 20, of West St. Paul. But it was still eye opening as to what could happen when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for even a few seconds, he said.
One false move while prompted to dial a phone number or type out a text message shows how easy it would be drift across a lane marker or hop a curb and damage one of those sleek vehicles that grace the showroom floor at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Of course, a full-blown crash is equally possible as one in four wrecks on state highways is attributed to driver distraction or inattention. In 2014, there were 61 deaths and 7,373 people injured in wrecks in which driver distraction was a factor, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
While deaths and injuries get most of the attention when it comes to distracted driving, there is another side of the story, too. That's illustrated a post-driving survey revealing the costs of even a minor mishap.
Among those numbers: Three weeks without a car, $2,100 to pay for damage, 575 hours of work to make that much money and $2,600 in increased insurance premiums.
Sgt. Troy Christenson of the State Patrol said he hopes the tool will get drivers to pay attention on the roads and tune out all kinds of distraction.
Christenson borrowed the simulator from AAA Minnesota and has taken it to schools and other events over the past six months. Today was the last day it was at the Auto Show.