Unionville first in county to get driving simulators

photo by Fran Maye From left: Cheryl and Brian Miller, and Superintendent Sharon Parker and High Principal Paula Massanari show off the new driving simulator at Unionville High School. The units still need to be assembled.

Students at Unionville High School will be the first in the county to experience driving simulators.

The school took possession of three driving simulators Monday, donated by the Abby Miller Foundation. The foundation was formed last year by Abby's parents, Cheri and Brian Miller, to address the lack of driving experience possessed by most teens who receive driver's licenses.

The simulators, valued at $15,000 each, give students a realistic driving experience. Students who use the simulators feel as if they are actually on the road, and if they hit a virtual car or an object, the simulator will shake to enhance that experience.

"Finally, the kids will be able to get the practice they need in driver's ed," said Brian Miller. "This is exciting."

Paula Massanari, high school principal, said she was glad to see the simulators come to the school. "I think this will make kids safer," she said. "We're going ot make this available to as many students as possible (at the high school). "Students who have a lunch period can come here to practice, and students who have a study hall can come ot the library to work on it."

"The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District deeply appreciates the donation of the driving simulators," said Kenneth E. Batchelor, the assistant to the superintendent for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. "The simulators will promote driver safety among all our students in a safe and accessible environment. As a student, Abby Miller's life had a profound impact on her classmates; and with this donation Abby's memory will continue to positively impact Unionville students for years to come," Batchelor said.

Because driver's education is not mandatory in Pennsylvania, Miller said students are not getting the training they need to be competent on the road. He said the simulators at Unionville are a pilot program and his next effort will focus on mandating driver's education at all high schools. Ideally, he said, he wants to get a solid driver's education program in Unionville's 10th grade health curriculum.

"Approximately 22 teens are killed on our highways every day and more than 6,000 lose their life every year," said Brian Miller.

Miller said that nearly 38% of all deaths of 16 to 19-year-olds are driving-related, and that teen driving results in 450,000 injuries yearly.

"As parents and citizens, we can't stand by idly and allow this to continue," he said. "We face a national epidemic of teen car accidents that could be reduced by providing our children with better training."

Miller's daughter, Abby, died less than nine months after she received her driver's license. Abby hit a utility pole after instinctively swerving to avoid a deer on Route 1. The investigators concluded that the crash was caused by inexperienced driving. As a result, the Millers decided to start a foundation to provide teenagers with more driving training and to make driver's education mandatory in schools.

The Abby Miller Foundation also donated three driving simulators this week to Garnet Valley High School.

A former member of the Unionville High School softball team, Abby was recognized by her peers as an exceptionally compassionate young woman.

"Teenagers often mistakenly believe that showing kindness to others is a sign of weakness, but Abby knew better from a young age," Cheri Miller said. "There is no way to know if a school crash awareness program would have resulted in a different outcome, but our Foundation believes deeply that schools and society can do a better job saving young lives."

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