Sixteen-year-old Webster Jean is driving around on city streets, left hand on the wheel, right hand holding a smartphone. As he reads and responds to his text messages, he repeatedly veers across the double-yellow lines.
And then -- wham.
"I crashed," says Jean with a chuckle.
Jean tee-bones another car – but he’s fine. The teenager is just taking a spin in a texting-while-driving simulator brought to Park Vista High School by wireless carrier AT&T.
The simulator is set up like an arcade-style driving game with a seat, a steering wheel, pedals and a monitor. Drivers get to experience a 3-D simulation involving a "city" and realistic text messages that appear on a smartphone attached to the machine.
AT&T has been touring schools nationwide with the simulator as part of the company's "It Can Wait" campaign, a push to make teens aware of the dangers of texting while driving.
Jean freely admits that he has texted behind the wheel -- for REAL -- a few times, but now . . .
“Trying the simulator I learned texting while driving is probably not the smartest thing to do," says Jean. "You might lose your life. Anything could happen. So don’t take life for granted.”
It's that common-sense approach to distracted driving that Florida lawmakers have been trying to get on the books for five years. Democratic State Senator Maria Sachs says the texting-while-driving bill passed last week by the Florida Legislature is a good start, but doesn’t go far enough.
“Texting while a person is behind the wheel needs to be a primary offense. And that was what I had in my bill – but I compromised," says Sachs. "So right now, the way the bill stands, it’s a secondary offense."
Which means that police would first have to pull a motorist over for some other violation, such as speeding or reckless driving.
As part of the "It Can Wait" campaign, teenagers agree to sign a pledge stating that they'll never again text while driving.
But when it comes to texting behind the wheel, a recent nationwide study done by AT&T suggests that grown-ups may be worse offenders than teenagers. Forty-nine percent of adults surveyed admit to texting while driving, compared with 43% of teens.