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Simulator Teaches Students A Tough Lesson About Texting And Driving

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- You are 23 times more likely to have a crash if you have a cellphone in your hand. One would think that statistic would scare some people, but experts say texting while driving has still become a deadly epidemic.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported Tuesday, one college on Long Island has joined the push to make sure its students stay safe.

Some students at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury admitted that they text and drive.

"Even though you shouldn't, I keep my phone eye level so I can look at the road and text," said student Luckens Victor of Westbury.

"You feel it vibrate in the center console, and that's all I want to do," added student George Stamboulis of Whitestone, Queens. "I have to know."

But what if they knew texting in the driver's seat is just as dangerous as driving the length of a football field, completely blind.

A driving simulation hit that point home. When student Sasha Thomas participated in the simulated texting-and-driving exercise, she ran over a dog.

"So obviously, texting while driving doesn't work," she said.

While the accident is not authentic, for Thomas, it was a scenario not far from reality.

"I neither completed the text, and I couldn't drive," she said.

Statistics showed that if you are communicating by text while driving a vehicle, you are 23 times more likely to crash.

Texting while driving accounts for 1.6 million accidents every year, and 11 teen deaths every day.

That was the reason NYIT leaders brought the simulation to campus, as a way to promote awareness.

"I had a student come in, and she was very upset because her sister had gotten into an accident while texting, and sustained head injuries, and was hospitalized for several weeks," said Alice Burke, senior director of counseling and wellness at the school.

If you're texting behind the wheel, you're six times more likely to get in an accident than if you're driving drunk. And using a voice command to text isn't much better; a new study show it's just as dangerous as using your fingers.

"The way we look at it, any distracted driving, anything keeping your mind off driving," said simulator operator Preston Koenig. "If you're not focusing on giving your 100 percent attention, anything can happen."

Students said they will take the lesson with them on the roads.

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