Students “driving lessons” in drunk driving

In case all the warnings and graphic educational adverts against drink driving weren’t enough to convince learner drivers against the perils of drink driving, Le Mars High Community High School are allowing their students to drive under drunken conditions.

Of course the students are not actually intoxicated, and the wheel they are getting behind is not that of a real car but a simulator. The drunkenness is also simulated, through goggles that impair the students’ vision.

The class is designed by Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau and The goggles are meant to create the blurred vision that alcohol can bring on. The students of Le Mars wore the goggles while they ‘drove’. The simulated car was comprised of a steering wheel, brake and accelerator, which were hooked up to a pair of computer monitors.

The computer monitors displayed a road scene, much like the driving theory test perception test. Much like on the perception test students would see animals suddenly scurrying on to the road, or experience a car suddenly brake sharply ahead or pull in front of them unexpectedly.

Students said the goggles made them feel “dizzy”, not an optimum driving sensation! After having a go driving in the simulated car freshman student Natalie Siebens said: “it was like shaky with the goggles.”

While still wearing the goggles the students were also asked to perform a sobriety test. This involved the deceptively simple sounding ‘walk and turn’ as a police officer looked on.

The students were then asked to try sending a text while driving on the simulator car. It might seem more harmless compared to drunk driving but Denny Becker, impaired driving programs administrator with the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB), pointed out that every second a driver’s eyes leave the road to text count: “One second, two seconds, if they do that enough, it catches up to them…It’s equivalent to a drunk driver.” Travelling at 55 miles an hour, within 5 seconds of looking at your phone you could have travelled 80 or so feet.

In Iowa, where the program is based 360 people died whilst texting and driving in 2012 and 364 in 2011. Across the nation over 6000 people have been killed due to trying to send a text while driving. People most at risk are those in the 16 to 34 age bracket.

In the RAC Report on Motoring 2011, statistics showed that 8% of U.K. drivers admitted to using smart phones for email and social networking while driving. Of this number 24% were 17 – 24 years old.

It might feel silly but the lesson has an important message. The cost of drink driving in Brighton can have a cost on it, in fact drink driving incidents in Sussex cost the taxpayer £197,770,000 in 2011. But you can’t put a price on life, as Mike Mulhern, GTSB youth program coordinator told the students: “We as parents would much rather have you call us than have to bury you.”

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