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VIDEO: Red Lake students learn how to Arrive Alive

Unite Arrive Alive Simulation Expert Chris Bennett instructs Seleasha Roy during Unite's stop at Red Lake High School Tuesday. The company tours the U.S. to educate students on the dangers of texting while driving and driving under the influence. CRYSTAL DEY | BEMIDJI PIONEER2 / 3
Seleasha Roy aced the Unite Arrive Alive distracted driving simulation on Tuesday at Red Lake High School. Students were given the opportunity to experience what it would be like to drive -- and in most cases crash -- while texting or under the influence. CRYSTAL DEY | BEMIDJI PIONEER3 / 3

RED LAKE -- Without drinking a drop of alcohol, Red Lake High School student Darren Defoe experienced crashing an SUV into a ditch with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.12 on Tuesday.

Defoe, 16, was participating in the Unite Arrive Alive event in the high school parking lot. Unite tours the U.S. educating students on the dangers of texting while driving and driving while under the influence. Students who crashed during their simulation experience were issued a mock ticket by a Unite simulation expert.

"I drive, but no, I don't drink and drive," Defoe said. "I wouldn't text and drive either."

Students chose to either text while "driving" or drive while under the influence if they didn't have a cellphone. Seated in a stationary vehicle, students wore simulator glasses to see what it would be like to drive distracted. Some crashed like Defoe, others seemed to handle the distracted driving better.

Seleasha Roy, 17, chose the texting while driving simulation. She continued down the road slowly, but not too slow and didn't crash.

"I drive, but I don't text while driving," Roy said.

Every Red Lake High Schooler had a similar response regardless of which simulation they tried. DeCarlo Jara, 17, tested the under the influence option.

"Yeah, I crashed, but I wouldn't drink and drive anyway," Jara said.

Red Lake High School Principal Ramona Victor said of the 220 high school students, not many drive to school. Tuesday was the third time the Unite tour has been in Red Lake. Victor said the event is sponsored by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and the Red Lake Chemical Health Program.

In addition to the simulation, students viewed a 30 minute video that included accident scenes and interviews with drivers and passengers who were involved in distracted driving accidents with grave consequences.

"It is very graphic," Victor said. "The E.R. scenes were very graphic, but it needs to be to get students' attention."

Bennett explained to a group of students that the charge for killing a person is the same whether you are texting while driving or driving under the influence -- vehicular manslaughter. Bennett said 80 percent or accidents are related to distracted driving, of those, 24 percent are texting incidents.

"There are lots of forms of distracted driving, texting is just one of them," Bennett said. "We use texting as a form of distraction, but really all it takes is your eyes to look off the road."

Bennett said distracted driving seems to occur at higher rates in small communities and rural areas where people are familiar with their surroundings.

"I'm not saying it doesn't happen in the suburbs, it's just more prevalent in rural areas," Bennett said. "It should be just as easy to get a sober ride."

Simulation expert Jake Azman said the company's popularity has steadily increased since it was started in Grand Rapids, Mich., by Patrick Degrasse in 2009. The team does three to four simulations a week during the school year.

For more information on the Unite Arrive Alive Tour 2014, visit

Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts, tribal relations and social issues for The Bemidji Pioneer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
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