After driving a drunk driving simulation on April 22, some teens reported that they have no plans to drink and drive.
Larry Smith, 16, a Youth Career Connect student at Anson High School, was one of the participants on the course at the Traffic Safety Day hosted by the Wadesboro Police Department.
He donned goggles that mimicked impaired drivers’ vision, then hopped in a golf cart with Officer W.E. Jacobs. Smith guided the cart as best he could through the course lined by large orange traffic cones, but hit a few.
Smith is taking driver’s ed now and is about to get his license. He said the course was harder than he thought it would be with the impaired vision.
“I thought I was going to do good, but when I took the goggles off, I realized I did bad,” he said.
He also tried some simple tests with Jacobs, including trying to walk a straight line and hold his balance on one leg while wearing the goggles, and struggled with both.
He’s never given much thought to drinking and driving before, but said this pushed him to commit to not do it and to make sure others get the message.
“I’m going to tell my friends not to drink and drive, and their parents not to drink and drive, because it’s dangerous,” he said.
Tristan Ward, 16, also a YCC student, has also already started driving. He wore goggles representing the vision of someone with a .17 to .20 BAC (blood alcohol content), over twice the legal limit of .08. Other goggles represented less than a .06 BAC and a .07-.10 BAC.
He said he expected the course to be somewhat difficult, but it was harder than he thought. The first part was easy, but he had trouble with the curves. He also said he’ll never drink and drive.
“I would never do that,” he said. “It’s never worth that risk.”
This was his first time doing a drunk driving simulation, but he said he’d already decided not to drink and drive.
“I still feel the same way,” he said. “It’s stupid, and you shouldn’t do it.”
Several other drivers, including both teens and adults, tried the course. Jacobs reminded the drivers that the goggles only mimicked impaired vision, and didn’t represent other factors impaired drivers may experience, such as slower reflexes.
The police offered other traffic-related safety demonstrations at the event. A Booze It and Lose It trailer was on-site for participants to tour, and the Anson County Partnership for Children provided free car seat safety checks and gave out free books.
Caroline Goins, director of the Partnership, said most of the seats had been installed fairly well.
“The great thing today is that parents have stopped to ask,” she said. The Partnership chairs the Safe Kids Coalition and has staff with the National Child Passenger Safety Certification, but others in the area, including the Wadesboro Police Department, the Anson County Sheriff’s Office, Carolinas HealthCare System-Anson and others also have staff with the certification.
Those who didn’t make the safety event can call the Partnership to make an appointment to have their car seat checked for safe installation and usage — though if parents or guardians are particularly concerned, they can stop by without an appointment, she said.
A seat belt conveyor was one of the other demonstrations at the event. Participants sat in the machine, which was pulled back a few feet before whipping forward to demonstrate the force of a car wreck while wearing a seat belt.
Zakera Harrington, 18, was one of the participants.
“I thought it hit harder than I expected,” she said.
Although she always puts her seatbelt on, she said the experience will make her more conscious of wearing it. Even though Jacobs said the machine only went a few miles per hour, Harrington said she could feel the force of her body against the seatbelt when the machine made a hard, sudden stop.
Teddy bears were the models in the “Tumbling bears” display, which had the body of a truck on a rod that turned, rotating the vehicle as if it were in an accident.
Jacobs provided a scenario to one young viewer, saying that Baby Bear was sick and Mama Bear decided to go to the store for medicine. Since it was close to home, she didn’t bother to wear a seat belt. When she reached the intersection, another vehicle ran the red light, plowing into Mama and Baby Bear’s car and sending it rolling.
The officers pointed to the vehicle’s occupants. Baby Bear, safely strapped in his carseat, stayed put. Mama Bear bounced around the cab without her seatbelt before flying out the driver’s side window.
Wadesboro Police Chief Thedis Spencer said that he was happy that people, especially teenagers with little or no experience on the roads, came by.
“Some parents brought their teens getting ready to get their license,” Spencer said. He gestured to the smashed-up vehicle on display near his booth. The display warned about the dangers of texting and driving, and contained the driver’s story on a plaque near the vehicle.
“They really are interested in some of the things they’ve seen, especially the Drive Now, Text later car,” he said. “A lot of them are reading it.”
Even though he thought the seat belt conveyor only went about 10 mph, he said some would-be participants declined to try it after seeing their friends on it.
“A lot of kids see someone else go through it and say they don’t want to,” he said. “They say seeing it is enough.”
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.