Teens get a glance at alcohol impairment

Posted 4/17/09

In preparation for prom weekend, the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office paid Elbert School a visit with not only a lecture on the consequences of …

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Teens get a glance at alcohol impairment


In preparation for prom weekend, the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office paid Elbert School a visit with not only a lecture on the consequences of drinking and diving, but also provided a hands-on lesson.

On April 16, Undersheriff Shayne Heap and three deputies gave ninth- through 12th-graders a chance to literally see what it is like to be visually impaired while driving a motorized vehicle. While wearing fatal vision goggles, students drove a four-wheeler around a course attempting to weave around cones, which was easier said than done for many students.

Before the driving course, students heard a lecture about the potential effects of drinking and driving as well as participating in road-side activities such as walking in a straight line while wearing the fatal vision goggles. The Elbert County Sheriff’s Office is using the program as a way to target the 15- to 20-year-old age group to help lower the number of alcohol-related crashes in the county. And with prom on April 18, the office decided days before the dance would be a great time to inform students.

Deputy Troy McCoy educated the students on the consequences of drinking and driving and informed the teens that Elbert County is 12th in the state out of 64 counties for fatal crashes and seventh for DUI crashes in the state. He used photos from an actual car accident involving the death of the driver to show students what could happen if a person drinks and then decides to get behind the wheel.

“That is actual blood on the car and that is not the air bag, it’s a person,” he said.

A few pairs of the goggles were used simulating different levels of alcohol impairment ranging from a .06 alcohol level to a .20 alcohol level. Heap said for many students it is surprising when they find out how hard it is to see in the .06 goggles because that only equates to about two beers.

“A lot of time kids don’t take into account their body weight when they drink alcohol,” he said. “Some of these girls are tiny and the goggles are made to simulate what it would be like for a grown man. So a girl who weighs only 90 pounds probably won’t even be able to stand up after two beers.”

Heap said the he thinks the program will make a difference for teens when it comes making the decision to not drink and drive. He said because of the group setting there is an associated peer pressure because the entire group is experiencing the same activities. He said although the sheriff’s office does not have the money in the budget for this type of a program, schools and students need the extra attention.

“These programs keep cops in the school with is a great thing and if this can keep them from making a bad choice than it’s worth it.”

After the program the students who participated also made the decision to sign a Contract for Life, which is a contract designed to facilitate communication between young people and their parents about potentially destructive decisions related to alcohol, drugs, peer pressure and behavior.

After the students sign the contract committing to trying in their best power to avoid making decisions that could jeopardize their health and safety, parents also sign the contract committing to communicating with their child when it comes to future difficult and potentially destructive decisions the teen may be faced with. The contract is part of the Students Against Destructive Decisions nonprofit organization.

The Elbert County Sheriff’s Office is hoping to make the program an annual event and will also visit other county schools including the Simla School District and the Agate School district.


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