BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — After five years of effort, Buena Regional High School finally won a driving simulator for its driver’s education program, the district announced.
The simulator is a grand prize in the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey’s annual U Got Brains Champion Schools competition. This year, 63 schools participated, and Buena was one of three winning schools selected May 24 in the alliance’s school showcase at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson.
“Motor vehicle crashes remain the No. 1 cause of traumatic brain injury in teens and young adults,” said Rita Steindlberger, president and CEO of the Alliance. “But we know that with help from our Champion Schools students and teacher advisers, we can continue to reduce these numbers.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows new teen drivers ages 16 and 17 are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a fatal crash.
The three-screen simulator allows students to sit in a car seat with a steering wheel and practice driving through various scenarios and in different weather.
“We’re still working on the details, but what we want to try do is get kids in study hall or as part of health classes to log in hours on the simulator. This way, they’re able to be better drivers or, if they’re going to be driving, they’ll be able to get practice,” said Stephanie Winkler, driver’s education teacher at the high school.
The simulator was a featured component of a National Save A Life Tour stop at the high school in the fall, sponsored by the local municipal alliance.
“Especially the kids, who don’t drive yet, it’s a good practice. It’s as close as we can get to simulate actually driving,” Winkler said.
The simulator is donated by New Jersey Manufacturer’s Insurance Company.
Winkler and and Judy Venafro, the student assistance coordinator at Buena, are advisers for the U Got Brains Champion School Program, in which students develop fun and interactive education campaigns on safe driving.
This year’s project, “Shift into Focus,” built upon previous campaigns and added new ideas to reach more people, including elementary students, about safe driving practices and graduated driver’s license laws.
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