Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A driving simulator that's perfect for millennials, and you, too

SPRING HILL — I was on the road maybe five seconds before I hit the deer.

It went flying, and I was pulled over by a police officer.

Fortunately, I didn't actually hit a deer. I was operating AAA's distracted driving simulator at the Hernando County Tax Collector's Office in Spring Hill on Thursday. Part of a statewide tour, the simulator, which looks like a first-person video game, gives drivers a chance to experience what it's like to drive while intoxicated or distracted by a phone.

In the deer incident, I was the drunken driver. I thought it would stop with the arrest, but the simulator took me through the whole miserable process of a drunken driving arrest.

I was put in a holding cell and taken to court. The judge sentenced me to three years' probation, a one-year driver's license suspension and a $5,000 fine.

And as if I wasn't blushing hard enough at the laughter from the small crowd watching me at the wheel, the simulator took me to a job interview, where I was told the company would need a copy of my driving record.

"Will that be a problem for you?" the interview lady asked.

I knew it was fake, but my stomach still dropped.

"It's an eye-opener, I'll tell you that," said Robert Bulson, 80.

Bulson's fate? Hitting a wall while turning onto the interstate.

I decided to give the distracted driving a try. After all, I am a millennial. We're the generation of narcissism, entitlement and texting while driving.

In the simulation, I played a girl named Morgan picking up someone's sister. And this girl was demanding. She asked me to call and text her brother, at which point I would normally have thrown her my phone and told her to do it herself. But I realized I was getting angry at a fake person, so I typed the texts.

I had just finished sending one when I looked up and saw, too late, a red light. The car I rear-ended didn't stand a chance against my recklessness. Millennials, am I right?

More numbers flashed across the screen: a $384 ticket, $2,100 in damages, almost a $2,700 insurance premium increase.

I would've been able to walk away with at least some of my dignity had Angelica Rivera and her mom, Lydia, not shown up. Angelica, 19, made it through the distracted driving route with no crashes, typing out texts at red lights and stop signs.

It seems as if mom's training paid off. Lydia said she wouldn't let Angelica get her license until she was well over 17 and had spent 15 to 20 hours a week practicing behind the wheel.

"A car is a weapon," she said.

Mom, if you're reading this, I'm sorry. Just know that if I hit a deer in real life, it won't be from distracted driving.

I learned my lesson.

Kathryn Varn can be reached at or (352) 754-6114. Follow @kathrynvarn on Twitter.

Angelica Rivera, 19, left, of Brooksville takes a texting-while-driving course given by Catherine Kuhn of AAA at the Hernando Tax Collectors office. For video, visit


Angelica Rivera, 19, left, of Brooksville takes a texting-while-driving course given by Catherine Kuhn of AAA at the Hernando Tax Collectors office. For video, visit

A driving simulator that's perfect for millennials, and you, too 06/12/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2014 7:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries


    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  3. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?



    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.
  5. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.