[News]Group meets goal for distracted driving simulator

(From right) Pacelli seniors Max Lundgren, 17, Katie Olson, 17, Sydney Otis, 17, and Courtney Kizewski, 18, talk to Dr. Thomas Honl and Jacqulyn Honl at the Stevens Point Advanced TMD and Dental Sleep Center about the distracted driving simulator in early December. The buisness donated $1,000 so the teen could buy the simulator.

A group of local teenagers raised enough money to buy a distracted driving simulator.

The four Pacelli High School seniors raised $10,700 to buy the One Simple Decision simulator, which will be stored at Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin Rapids.

The simulator includes a console and a screen that simulates the effects of driving drunk, sleepy or distracted.

“We feel like this will have a huge impact,” said Katie Olson, one of four seniors involved in the project. Olson, 17, knows firsthand the effects of distracted driving after being involved in a car crash with a drunken driver last June. “They hear you talking about texting and driving, but it doesn’t sink in until you have an experience with it. This is a way for people to have an experience without getting into a car accident.”

The project is part of the Destination Imagination, a program that challenges teens to solve problems in a group. Olson, along with Max Lundgren, 17, Sydney Otis, 17, and Courtney Kizewski, 18, got the idea from the Portage County LIFE report, which identified impaired driving as a major issue in the county.

The project received support from a number of individuals and organizations. More than 20 individuals, businesses and organizations donated to the cause. Officials with the Portage County Sheriff’s Office and the Stevens Point Police Department have said they support the project because it will help address the problem of distracted driving.

“I think deep down, we knew we were going to make our goal,” Lundgren said. “When we did, it put a smile on our faces.”

The group has sent the check into the California company to purchase the simulator and expects it to arrive in mid-January.

The group is sending emails to schools throughout the county to set up presentations and will demonstrate the simulator to local students.

Olson, Lundgren, Otis and Kizewski will compete in a regional competition for Project Destination in March.

Follow B.C. Kowalski on Twitter: @BCreporter