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Enlighten, GM Team to Help Drivers Focus

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Interactive and design firm Enlighten has created a computer simulation program for General Motors that highlights the problem of distracted drivers.

The Ann Arbor, Mich., shop has worked with GM through other agencies but this is its first direct relationship with the automaker. The driver distraction program was previously a public relations effort handled by Hass Associates in Ann Arbor, but GM wanted an interactive component and so looked at several shops before settling on Enlighten.

Enlighten's Flash simulation, which can be seen at www.sense-abledriving.com, depicts several driving scenarios in which distractions pose a problem.

The initial work showed how much motorists can miss when using a cell phone or fiddling with the radio. It shows a "soccer mom" driving a van filled with children. She is distracted from driving by incoming phone calls, annoying requests from passengers, and the radio.

The simulation had to be serious enough to convey a critical safety message, but compelling enough to keep users engaged, said Steve Glauberman, CEO of Enlighten.

Users of the simulation are scored on a "Sense-O-Meter," gaining or losing points based on their choices. Comments at the end of the three-minute driving simulation offer pointers about making better decisions to avoid distracted driving.

A CD-ROM version that could be distributed to consumers is also under consideration.

Enlighten was assisted on the project by GM safety experts. The goal is to show that distractions go beyond the now familiar cell phone and include such things as eating, putting on makeup and misbehaving kids, Glauberman said.

GM and its shop have few delusions about stopping drivers from using cell phones, Glauberman said. The aim is to get people to at least cut back on phoning and driving or to use hands-free devices, he said.