Virtual driving heading to local schools

Valrico, Florida -- On the very same week young students head back to class in Polk County, there's heartbreak for the parents of a Haines City High School graduate who learned his dreams of attending college are over.

Detectives with the Polk County Sheriff's Office say 18-year-old Jose Orozco was driving during heavy rain and storms around 8:45 Thursday evening in Davenport near the corner of Providence Boulevard and Heritage Green Drive when he lost control of his car. It spun out of control, jumped a curb and slammed into a tree. Even though he was wearing a seat belt, he died at the scene.

Meanwhile, 10 News has learned new technology is giving teen drivers real life road experience in a safe environment in hopes of preventing tragic deaths.

KB Scull has been teaching driver's education for decades, but at Bloomingdale High School some lessons are harder than others -- like when he shares the news of a teenager's death to his young students.

Friday afternoon he told his students, "We can't stress it enough, especially on a wet road. He lost his life on a wet road. It happens too often."

The tragedy is close to home at the Valrico school because in 1999 Stephanie Ann Culbertson lost her life the very same way as Jose Orozco.

Stephanie, a Bloomingdale High School, student crashed and died on a rain slicked road just a few blocks away from her home. Years later, there's still a memorial on campus dedicated to her memory.

Scull remembers Culbertson well, down to where she sat in the classroom.

"She was one of our cheerleaders - one of our students," he recalls.

And that's why there's so much interest in new technology for driver's education students. Virtual Driver Interactive Desktop Driving Simulator will soon be headed to the 27 high schools in Hillsborough County so students can safely practice how they react to situations on the roadway.

VIDEO: Virtual Driving Trainer Demo / Desktop training simulator

Stephen Hegarty, a spokesperson for the school district, says it will happen over the next two to three years and the hope is to have one in each high school.

Hegarty says the system's cost about $12,000 each and it will cost about $324,000 to equip all of the high schools with them.

Scull says they will be an lifesaving asset.

"They just add to the driving experience. It's more important than any other class. They're going to drive every day for the rest of their life, and if they don't know what's going on in the car and they're not careful, they can get hurt."

Florida teens can get a learner's license starting at age 15. After one year, they can get a regular license, as long as they prove they've driven at least 50 hours.

If your teenager''s school doesn't offer driver's education classes there are plenty of private driving schools to chose from.

Florida's Department of Motor Vehicles has plenty of resources for teen drivers and their parents. Click here for details.


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