The term demolition derby likely took on some new meaning for at least some teen drivers at the high school this week.

That is because some of them got their first experience at driving in an impaired state while not impaired, with the use of specialized “beer” goggles that simulate different levels of impairment.

With the assistance of a Show Low Police officer who was in the car, drivers tried to make their way through an obstacle course set up in one of the school’s parking lots without hitting any orange safety cones. A line of teenagers got behind the wheel one at a time and tried to get the best results.

The event was sponsored by the school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club with President Alea Robinson, 17, and Vice President Karie Warren, 17, present.

Also in attendance was SADD Adviser Martha FitzPartrick.

FitzPartrick said the incentive behind the simulation event was to raise awareness among teen drivers of the dangers associated with drinking and driving, as well as any form of distracted driving.

Show Low Police Ofc. Alan Rogers said he offered students their choice of goggles that would simulate low levels of impairment, all the way to what he called the “fatal impairment” goggles that simulated a person who has a blood alcohol concentration in excess of 0.30, which is more than three times the legal state limit of 0.08 for a driver over that age of 21.

Any amount of alcohol in a person’s body who is under the age of 21 constitutes underage drunk driving in Arizona.

Robinson said a lot of students have been impacted by several accidents this year that involved friends, some of whom did not survive.

Rogers allowed The Independent to try driving through the obstacle course using the lowest level of impairment goggles.

Even though they simulated a low blood alcohol concentration between 0.7-0.10, it took more than two-and-a-half minutes to get through it without knocking over any cones.

Other teen drivers had consistently better times, but some were unable to do it without knocking over a cone or two.

For each cone, they hit there was a five second penalty to their overall time. The safest drivers received a small prize.

For teen drivers, it was enlightening to be sober yet experience the symptoms of impaired driving.

The big difference, however, was that even though the goggles simulated visual impairment and put one off balance, they did not include the loss of muscle control, compromised distance judgement and lack of cognitive abilities a real drunk driver experiences behind the wheel of a multi-ton vehicle that all too often becomes a lethal weapon in their hands, FitzPartrick said.

“We want (student drivers) to know we care and that we want them to come back to us on Monday is what we tell our them when they go home on Fridays,” she said. “These kids are a part of us and when we lose one we are devastated. They are not just a name and a grade, they are someone we care about.”

Robinson said part of the focus of the event, apart from giving students an idea of what impaired driving is, was to raise awareness about any kind of distracted driving, be it texting while driving, talking on the phone, listening to music or noise inside the vehicle due to rowdy friends.

Robinson said on one occasion, she was driving when she suffered a seizure. She said even though she could not have foreseen the seizure coming nor prevented it, she felt guilty that she could have hurt a fellow motorist that day.

She said she could not live with herself if she had to live with the memory that she hurt someone while driving impaired and that is why she has made a pledge to be a responsible driver.

That is just part of the reason why she and Warren are asking fellow teen drivers to also go online to www.celebratemydrive.com, sponsored by State Farm, and sign the challenge to be safe drivers by clicking on the “Make a Commitment” tab at the top of the page.

The bonus is that if enough Show Low students sign on, they could win a contest for a grant either in the amount of $100,000 or $25,000, or a concert by pop music star Kelly Clarkson of “American Idol” fame.

The school with the most commitments will win. Show Low High School is teaming with local agent Jill Tinkel, while Blue Ridge High School is teaming with Robert Pico’s agency in Pinetop.

Robinson and Warren pointed out it was National Teen Driver Safety Week at the same time that they were holding the impaired driving simulation event at the high school.

Source: White Mountain Independent


Last updated on: 2013-10-29 | Link to this post