|A DUI simulator paid a visit to Buffalo High School and Winfield High School last week to give students a firsthand look at how dangerous drinking and driving can be. (From left) Winfield State Farm agent Tom Midkiff and Keith Wagner of the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration both spoke to students in conjunction with the simulator's visit encouraging them to make good choices and not drink and drive. Photo by Jack Bailey|
BY Jack Bailey
For The Putnam Standard
February 21, 2012
WINFIELD - The statistics are sobering.
Every day in the United States three teenagers die in accidents related to driving drunk.
One in every 12 11th graders reports that they have driven drunk before.
In 2008, 25 percent of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
In order to prevent teenagers in Putnam County from becoming part of those statistics, last week a DUI simulator was brought to Buffalo High School and Winfield High School.
Sponsored by State Farm Insurance, the Governor's Highway Safety Program, and the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, the simulator allows teenagers to experience what impaired driving is like.
Prior to climbing into the simulator, students would watch a 10-minute video detailing the choices an Oregon high school student made who attended a party, drank too much, and then was killed in a car wreck driving home after the party.
"The decisions you make right now formulate your future, Keith Wagner told the students that if they make good decisions, they will have a bright future. If they make bad decisions, those decisions could lead to an accident, an arrest, or worse.
After talking to the students about not drinking and driving, students took turns going to the simulator to climb behind the wheel.
The simulator resembles an overly large video game with large screens in front and to both sides projecting a panoramic view of a road going up a mountain.
The simulator controls are very much like a car's controls. The student would turn a key to start the simulation, and a steering wheel, gas pedal and brake pedal are all used just like driving an actual car.
As the simulation begins, the student is driving under normal conditions, but as it progresses, a BAC counter flashes on the screen and conditions begin to change. The simulation starts at 0.02 BAC, which is considered legally drunk for drivers 16 to 18. As the BAC starts to increase, the steering and other controls become more difficult to manage simulating what happens when someone is actually drinking and driving.
|Erin Midkiff, a junior at Winfield High School, takes a turn driving in a DUI simulator that was at the school on Friday. The simulator is designed to show teenage drivers the dangers of drinking and driving. Courtesy photo|
During the simulation, the road winds its way up a mountain side with twists and curves. In addition to watching the curves and oncoming traffic, drivers in the simulator face some unexpected obstacles such as a deer laying in the road and a person running out from behind a parked tractor trailer.
The simulation lasts for four minutes, unless the student crashes before then. After the simulation is over students take a quiz on their driving and alcohol consumption habits.
The simulator has been visiting high schools in West Virginia since 2010, Wagner said. Last week was its first visit to Putnam County, but Wagner added it would return next year to go to Poca and Hurricane High Schools.
"The goal is to go to every high school in West Virginia," Wagner said.
State Farm Insurance Agent Tom Midkiff has an office in Winfield and was on hand last Thursday and Friday when the simulator visited Winfield High School.
Midkiff said that to him the visit had a lot of personal significance since he has a daughter at Winfield High School that recently became old enough to drive, and he knows a lot of kids at the school from his days as a youth soccer coach.
"I know a lot of kids at the high school and I want to make sure that they make good decisions," Midkiff said. "I don't ever want to be in a position to have to cancel their insurance because they made a bad decision and got a DUI."
About 70 students a day were able to go through the simulator while it made stops last week in Buffalo and Winfield.
Students primarily came from driver's education classes, Wagner said.