An eye-bending, stomach-turning, head-spinning experience woke students up to the dangers of driving drunk Thursday at Payson High School.
Students donned goggles with a special film that simulated having a .08 to 1.0 blood alcohol content. While it looked simple to drive through a small course of cones with a golf cart, the task proved difficult for most students.
One student managed to lose his passenger on a corner, sending him face down on the pavement. The driver kept driving, never realizing he had lost his passenger until Dave Vaughn, Payson Police school resource officer, shouted for him to stop. Luckily, the student was uninjured. The driver said he did not notice his passenger had fallen out because the goggles distorted his vision.
Katie Ward, another student who drove through the course with the goggles, plowed through a line of cones, piling up a stack so high she was forced to stop and let Vaughn remove them. Since her passenger was also “drunk,” the students laughed hysterically at her poor driving skills.
Afterwards, Reghan Flake, 17, said she had always wondered what it was like to be drunk and now that she knows, she is less tempted to drink.
Kyl Sanders and Collette Sexton said although the exercise was fun, it still drove home the message that driving under the influence is extremely dangerous.
Around 140 seniors participated in DUI and the Prom, a program put on by school resource officers to educate students about the consequences of driving under the influence. Payson High School’s prom is Friday night.
Mike Snively, Gila County juvenile probation officer, said if they can stop one or two teens from driving impaired, the program is a success.
Snively pointed out that Gila County has the third highest teen drinking problem in the state, with a third of all teen accidents involving alcohol and more teens dying in alcohol-related crashes than all drug deaths combined.
When Snively and others implemented the DUI awareness program three years ago, he decided it needed a classroom portion as well as hands-on demonstration.
On Thursday, students took a field sobriety test wearing the goggles, watched several videos on DUI in a classroom and then drove through the course.
Next year, the program is in jeopardy because state funding for the safe schools grant, which funds school resource officers (SRO), is being slashed.
There are around 200 SROs around the state, and 70 may lose their positions if the upcoming sales tax vote fails, Snively said