Learning the Dangers of Impaired Driving
The Thompson Public School Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter is using student and community-involved activities to show the consequences and dangers of driving impaired. The chapter recently hosted a game night in their school gymnasium where students used vision-impaired goggles to simulate the effects of alcohol, and the group also plans a mock crash event with local community agencies illustrating the ramifications of driving after drinking alcohol.
Patty Krebs, Thompson Public School’s SADD Advisor said, “If we can get students to stop and think about the choices they are faced with, hopefully when placed in that situation they will make the right choice because they have seen firsthand through our SADD events the effects that alcohol can have.”
While both events focus on impaired driving, each one has a different way of showing the consequences of impairment. As many of the students in the chapter are varsity basketball players, they wanted to use basketball as a way to show students the effects of drinking alcohol. The chapter used vision impaired goggles in a basketball shooting match at the school where students shot the ball without the googles, with the goggles, and then again without the goggles to feel the different effects.
The students said their basketball shots were off and it was difficult to pick things up or pass the ball. “I felt like my shot was accurate, but in reality, it was off by a few feet,” said Hayden Overby, student at Thompson Public School. “Just because I felt fine, doesn’t mean that I was okay.”
After the game night, the chapter noted in their follow-up discussion that their judgement, balance, hand-eye coordination and depth perception were all affected by the goggles. They said just because a person stops consuming alcohol, it doesn’t mean the effects are gone.
“It was interesting to see the lingering effects of wearing the goggles as it took time for students to get their shots back,” said Krebs. “We had a follow-up conversation about how alcohol affected their abilities and what that would mean for operating a vehicle after drinking alcohol. The students realized it takes a while to regain normal functioning after consuming alcohol.”
The SADD chapter plans a mock crash event every four years, so that it is new to all students grades 9-12. The event goes through every step of a real-life crash with an impaired driver in a two-vehicle collision that ends with a mock vehicle fatality. This half-day event involves students, school staff, the volunteer Thompson Fire Department, the county coroner, the sheriff’s department, volunteer community members, the funeral home, Zimney Foster P.C. Attorneys at Law, and paramedics and trauma nurses with Altru.
The mock event begins with students talking about a few drinks they had, followed by a loud crash sound. After the students see the crashed vehicles and their classmates in the crash, the emergency medical technicians (EMTs), local fire department and law enforcement arrive to the scene. The mock crash also shows one individual that was ejected from the vehicle, and how the EMTs, law enforcement and funeral homes are involved with a crash fatality. The funeral home arrives to pick up the deceased individual from the crash, showing the students that impaired driving can have fatal consequences and lasting effects on more people than they would ever imagine.
This event demonstrates how all emergency personnel work together with multiple agencies to save lives. Krebs says the students often think this is just another assembly, but when they go back to the school for the second part of the event, it is complete silence as they process the emotions from what they just witnessed.
“It hits home when you see your friends in the vehicle or your parent on the fire department working to save people,” said Trey Larimer, student at Thompson Public School.
Once the mock crash is over, the students further discuss the dangers of impaired driving, along with inviting a police officer to speak about what will happen to the driver after he or she is arrested, an attorney to share the legal consequences involved in an impaired driving fatality, and a coroner to discuss what happens to the body of a victim from a crash. The school’s secondary principal, Jason Schwabe, discusses the goals of the mock crash and the reasons the school feels it is important to educate the students on the dangers of impaired driving. He says that one bad decision can change your life and the lives of others forever and encourages the students to make good choices, including driving sober.
Krebs says the Thompson Public School SADD chapter focuses on a common theme with each one of these activities, “Life is about choices, make them count.”