GM and Enlighten Enlighten Drivers

Enlighten, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based interactive design, development and consulting firm, has been tapped by General Motors to help educate consumers about the hazards of driving while distracted.

The agency has created a computer simulation called “D3–The Driver Distraction Demonstration” as part of the GM’s SenseAble driving program, which is being created with the assistance of the public relations firm Hass & Associates, also Ann Arbor. The pilot program launched in late March in Michigan through offices of the Secretary of State and will be rolled out in other states later this year, said Caroline Markey, a GM representative.

The Flash simulation debuted in kiosk format earlier this spring at auto shows and one of the driving scenarios is now available online at www.senseabledriving.com. Two more scenarios are expected to be added to the site next month. They will feature a harried business executive with his team on the way to an important meeting and a teen trying to get to a concert on time with his friends. A CD-ROM version that could be distributed to consumers is also under consideration.

The humorous three-minute simulation of a distracted driving experience that’s currently online shows motorists how much they might miss by using cell phones or devoting too much attention to tuning 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. It also had to be simple to use, even by non-computer savvy consumers, he said.

It features a soccer mom who is rushing a van full of kids to a game. Along the way, she encounters incoming phone calls, annoying requests from passengers, radio tuning and other surprising distractions that detract from her ability to keep the vehicle on the road and maintain a safe speed.

Viewers of the simulation receive feedback along the way from “Hank,” their driving assistant, and are scored on a 100-point “Sense-O-Meter,” depending on the choices they make and the quality of their driving. Detailed feedback at the end of the three-minute driving simulation offers pointers about making better decisions to avoid distracted driving.

Enlighten worked closely with GM safety experts in creating the simulation with the goal of teaching consumers that distracted driving includes more than just using a cellular telephone, Glauberman said. Other problematic behaviors include eating drive-thru food or trying to put on makeup or being distracted by rowdy children. Realistically, nothing will probably dissuade consumers from never using a cell phone while in the car, he said. But the simulation aims at prompting them to at lest reduce the number of calls or use hands-free devices, he said.