CHEROKEE - It looks and feels like a video game. The high school student is sitting, playing a driving game with a mobile phone in their lap. The phone starts vibrating and initially the student doesn't answer it.
Justin Noel of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office tells the student: "You need to speed up, you're going too slow".
The student speeds up, and their phone vibrates again. The driver glances down at the phone, tries to respond, and crashes into a tree and bushes at a fork in the road.
This is why the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office has partnered with other coalitions and agencies throughout Southeast Kansas, even businesses in Pittsburg and Joplin with a Texting & Driving Simulator - to show new drivers the hazards of texting and driving.
"Kids themselves are not the safest drivers, we have adults that are still trying to master driving - some of us may never do that," says Southeast High School School Resource Officer Dallas Pulliam.
The simulator is taken throughout the Four States, as well as neighboring states, including Texas. Officer Pulliam says the simulator is one part of the school's Seatbelt's Are For Everyone program. S.A.F.E. teaches students about the importance of seat belt use and the dangers of distracted driving, especially texting and driving.
"If we can teach the kids there are many different distractions within driving, and texting is one of them that we can avoid, this will help keep them safe," Officer Pulliam says. "We may text and drive to Pittsburg and nothing may happen, but this simulator shows that at the drop of a hat or in the blink of an eye, something can happen that can change your life."