BCHS students try impaired driving with “beer goggles”

At a recent Standards of Learning Testing Kick-off celebration at Bath County High School students ran sack races, played corn hole, sang karaoke, had a picnic lunch, and tried driving under the influence.  The event, on a perfect May Day, is an enlarged field day, and on the perimeter of the football field, Bath County Sheriff’s department set up a course of orange cones, and students took turns driving a golf cart around them wearing beer goggles.  I had a question for Joseph.

“What’s different about when you drive this golf cart? 

“Umm,  you have the goggles on, and it makes it darker, and it throws you off which way the wheels going, and it makes it really blurry.”

“And what kind of experience is it supposed to make you feel like you’re having?”

“Drinking and driving.”

“And has it ever worked for you to get around all these little orange cones?”

“No Mam.”

The level of legal drunkenness is .08 percent in all states. The goggles use a unique lens technology to produce different impairment levels so one can try on different percentages of BAC.  The Bath Sheriff’s department offers the goggles that simulate nighttime driving.too.  A former law enforcement officer, now head of one of quite a few companies selling simulation goggles, and the prevention programs that accompany them, is an example of all of the personal experience that goes into their development.

He understands impaired driving. He has arrested drunk drivers, investigated fatal crashes, counseled convicted DUI offenders and worked as an advocate for victims of impaired driving crashes.

I watched a pair of young women negotiate the vehicle around and over several cones, and listened to the roars of frustration, and surprise. 

“Do you feel like talking about what it felt like:?  Noooo!  Taylor was the passenger for this experience.  You’ve done it once with the goggles, and now as a passenger. How did it make you feel?  “Definitely scared. Definitely making my heart rapid.  I mean you can tell they’re uneasy, unstable with what they’re doing.  Makes you  panic.

You could tell if it was worse than this, and I don’t know what blood alcohol content level these glasses are, but if someone’s like, they’ve drank a lot, and they’re nervous, and they’re uneasy; it’s gonna be a bad night.”

“It kinda doesn’t really matter how slow you’re going does it?”

“No, because your vision’s all wonky.  You think you’re missing a cone, but really you’re running straight over it.  You cant’t tell about your back tires.  The cones are super tight, just enough for the golf cart to get through.”

“Anything else you’d like people to consider when they know about this exercise?”

“Definitely.  Don’t drink and drive.Don’t drink at all.  And if you are drinking, find a safe place to stay.  Call parents.”

I asked Joseph if he thought the exercise might have changed the minds of some students who didn’t understand how serious the risks of impaired driving truly are.

“I think, everybody.  It’s changed everybody’s mind.”

For more information about the DUI simulation, contact the Bath Sheriff’s office at 839-2375.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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