Teens Learning Driving Essentials On Xbox Program
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah – Thousands of Utah teenagers this summer will learn and practice the skills they need to pass the test for a Utah driver license. For this year’s eager students there’s a new Xbox game that turns a television monitor into a driver’s education simulator to help them practice.
“It just really makes you want to go out and play it,“ said Raeola Katsanevas, 14, who’s been playing the new game on their Xbox the last several weeks with her cousin, Katina. It’s called Driving Essentials, and they’re using the game to prepare to test for their learner’s permit next year.
“It’s still really helping me understand the basics of driving, so it really sticks with you when you drive,” said Raeola.
After playing the new game for a few weeks, the cousins said they pay more attention to what’s going on out on the road.
“When I’m in the passenger seat, I look at what other drivers are doing, and what my mom is doing,” said Raeola. “It’s basically like what’s in the game.“
The cousins said the game has made them more aware of mistakes all drivers make. That’s important for teens to recognize because, on an average day, 36 Utah teenagers are involved in a crash according to state statistics. After getting some training under their belts, the girls said they quickly spotted drivers who cannot put down their phones, and other distractions.
“I see people on their phone,” said Katina. “And if I look over, they’re kind of like going out of their lane, or something.“
So, does the 10-lesson course feel more like a game or a lesson? They tell it’s both.
“It’s a really fun game because driving games are always fun because you get to experience something you haven’t experienced yet, when you’re our age,” said Katina. “But, everything I learned has also stuck in my head.”
The teenagers said the game keeps them interested. But, the game also helps them focus on the driving instruction. They’re learning to wait for traffic to clear at an intersection. They’ve also picked up critical lessons about when to pass a school bus.
“You always have to be careful for kids coming out of them, and crossing the street,“ said Katina.
Since they’re not using a real steering wheel, brake, or accelerator, the game helps fine-tune mental skills more than physical skills. But, the game has made them even more eager to get behind the wheel of a car next year.
“I’m pretty confident that if I got into a car, maybe not like right now, but in the future, I would be better than most of my friends,“ said Raeola.
Their parents like the way Driving Essentials XE helps instill confidence and teaches the rules of the road, especially the mental skills that they’ll need out on the road because there’s really no replacement for hours behind the wheel in real driving situations.
“Anytime you have teens focused on how they can become a better driver, how they can become a safe, responsible driver, that’s a good thing,” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason. UDOT is not endorsing the product. But, Gleason said it looks like a good educational tool. “It gets people talking about talking about how can I become a safer driver, how can I get my teen to be responsible behind the wheel?”
But, the young drivers will still need the real road experience that they get in a traditional drivers education class. That’s still required by law to get the learner’s permit.
Virtual Driver Interactive is the company that makes Driving Essentials. The company founder and CEO, Bob Davis, said they have taught these skills on simulators for a decade. But, most school districts don’t have their own simulators, and parents kept asking for the training. So, Davis said, they created Driving Essentials for Xbox.
He said it gives drivers in training a chance to experience dangerous situations without crashing a car. That’s not an opportunity most of them will have when they’re practicing in their parent’s car. If you already own XBox, the Driving Essentials game is available through the Microsoft Store for $39. The Sony PlayStation version will be available in the next few weeks.
Raeola and Katina said they would recommend it for their peers.
“Now, I just really have a mindset for what to do on the road, it’s just really helped me a lot,” said Raeola.