With one hand on the wheel and the other on his cellphone, Julian Palacio tried to text and drive. A few minutes later, the Central Texas College freshman crashed.

But Palacio wasn’t injured because the texting and driving scenario was part of a simulator during a spring break safety awareness event at the Anderson Campus Center.

“I saw the simulation and thought why not try it,” he said. “It was so much harder than I thought it would be.”

The school also had a display showing the effects of drinking and driving using the metal frame of a truck that rolled over multiple times with a dummy inside.

Every day, more than nine people are killed in the U.S. and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gerald Mahone-Lewis, director of the college’s Substance Abuse Resource Center, said even though students are excited about having time off from school and work, it’s important to think about the activities they engage in.

“If you’re driving and you’re texting, you run the risk of not only hurting yourself, but also hurting other people who are a part of the community,” she said.

While students are out “having a good time,” Mahone-Lewis said she doesn’t want anyone to become a victim.

“The girls are hooking up with the guys and the guys are hooking up with the girls and they don’t necessarily know each other,” she said. “Sometimes they separate from the group and go off somewhere independently and they place themselves in danger, so we have pointers on things to do to increase safety.”

Whether it’s drinking excessively or texting and driving, she said students should be aware of those dangers year-round, but especially during spring break.

Palacio said the texting and driving simulator changed his perception about the dangers of texting and driving.

“I’ll admit it. Yes, sometimes I am on the phone. Even without the simulation, I’ve always tried to stop,” he said. “People are going to do what they want to do, but they have to consider other people who are also driving, not just them.”

srafique@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7549 | @SarahRafique

Contact Sarah Rafique at srafique@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow her on Twitter at SarahRafique.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SarahRafique

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