Jenny Selin was gamely steering and texting with Dave Kaeka at the same time -- when she felt the bump.
"Uh-oh," the Morgantown councilwoman said. "I didn't just take out a pedestrian, did I?"
Well, she may have. And that was the point of the driving exercise hosted by insurance company Allstate on Monday morning at Morgantown Mall.
In a cordoned-off parking lot near Sears, Selin and a handful of other motorists navigated an obstacle course that took in everything from tight turns to tricky, reverse-only maneuvering.
This one carried its own carcaveat. It was a "distracted driving" course, which meant Selin and the others had to steer through it while talking on the cellphone.
Then, they had to go through it again, while texting.
They were allowed both hands on the wheel for the third go-around, but this time, they had to deal with a car-full of rowdy passengers. The demonstrative riders yelled, laughed and lunged up from the back seat to change the radio station.
When it was done, Selin, even with her hands locked in the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock position on the steering wheel, laughed and shook her head.
"OK," she said, "they proved their point."
That is, if you drive while texting, tweeting or talking on the cell phone ... or eating your breakfast, applying your makeup or shaving with that nifty, cordless razor you got for Father's Day ... you're driving while distracted.
Keep doing that, said Kaeka, a former narcotics cop-turned driving instructor, and you will get into a crash. Kaeka's company, SWERVE, is a suburban Seattle driving school contracted by Allstate for the exercise.
The insurance company launched the driving test here Monday -- one day after law enforcement started enforcing West Virginia's texting while driving ban -- as part of a community safety initiative it is also piloting in Tidewater, Va., Eugene, Ore., and Spokane, Wash.
Allstate spokeswoman Debbie Pickford said Morgantown was tapped because of its growing population, diverse demographics and thriving business climate.
In short, that means there are a lot of motorists here, young or otherwise, who might be inclined to drive while willingly subjecting themselves to all the above distractions Selin and the others were dealing with Monday.
A 2009 study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has the numbers to back up Monday's driving exercise.
For example, dialing a cell phone while driving a light truck or car, that study showed, means you are 2.8 percent more likely to have a crash, or at least a near-crash, than someone who is motoring without the distraction.
And long-distance truckers who text while behind the wheel are 23.2 percent more likely to get into a wreck.
"If you noticed," Kaeka said, "Jenny and the other drivers were really slowing down when we were making them text. They didn't realize it, but they were."
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