California father creates Xbox game to teach teens about distracted driving

Teenage drivers often hear that they aren't supposed to use phones while they drive, but the challenge is making it into a habit and developing skills that help them stay safe on the road.

One father from California launched a new video game Wednesday, which he hopes will help teenagers behind the wheel.

'The rules of the road are very different than actually having experience on the road," said Bob Davis, CEO of Virtual Driver Interactive based in the Sacramento area. 

"I want to create those situations that are so dangerous that only way you can know it and experience it is through a game. In a safety way. So we always say we want teens to go through dangerous situations without being in danger. Then they'll more prepared if something does happen," said Davis. 

According to most recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 3,450 people died in 2016 due to distracted driving crashes.

Davis says his simulation programs have been used nationwide in school districts, companies and even the U.S. Postal Service and UPS to help train drivers. Those programs, he says can cost thousands of dollars. The Xbox Driving Essentials game, he says, is being sold for $59.99 and will allow students and parents to access a more cost-effective driving simulator through a device that millions of people already have in their homes.

Teens are presented with real-life situations, such as having to look both ways after a traffic light turns green, in case other cars go through an intersection on a red light. It also shows the consequences of distracted driving. Instead of just crashing as in other typical video games and getting a re-set, or being rewarded with points if you race and drive recklessly, the Driving Essentials game presents realistic consequences a teen might face. 

"We worked with a Sacramento Superior Court judge and there's a segment in the program that when you're driving in the distracted drive and anything happens, you end up in a courtroom face to face with a judge," said Davis.

Davis says he started his company after a close call along I-680 in the Bay Area. A lawn chair flew off a truck in front of him and he says he had to swerve to avoid it. He said it made him think about how his own three children might have reacted with less experience, and how to encourage teens to practice their driving skills.

Davis says the video game is meant to supplement, not replace the traditional drivers education instruction. 

"It's illegal in California especially for teenagers, they cannot drive with their cell phones while operating a car," said Mahboob Sherzad, CEO of Academic Driving School in Alameda.

Sherzad says during his five years training teenage drivers in the East Bay, he sees the need for teens to learn about the dangers of distracted driving.

Sherzad says the California DMV requires teens to complete 30 hours of online training, plus behind the wheel training with a driving school instructor and then drive with their parents. 

"Six hours behind the wheel with a driving school and 50 hours with their parents," said Sherzad. 

Some parents say the Xbox driving simulator game is an interesting idea.

"They can practice and they're more aware, and it's simulated. It's not an actual situation," said Carmella Johnson, an Alameda parent.

"I played video games my whole life growing up," said Devin Grigg, a father in Alameda, "I don't know if that's something I would have taken to, but if there's something you can get kids excited about and video games is certainly that, if it can be positive, that's good."