A group of us “drove drunk” last night.
At our Citizens Police Academy last night, we got to put on “drunk” goggles, get behind the wheel of a converted golf cart (used as a “metermaid” vehicle in its other life) and attempt to drive through a course of cones set up in the police department parking lot.
We were told that each orange cone represented a child. I responded that I didn’t want to play that game, so I was going to pretend they were garden gnomes. The horror of even pretending to run over a child was too much for me to handle.
I chose the easiest goggles, representing your vision if you had a blood alcohol content between .07 and .10 (.08 is the minimum BAC to be guaranteed conviction of DWI in North Carolina) and I could hardly see through them. Things were blurry and seemed slightly shifted. I maneuvered the course and grazed three cones.
My husband, thrill seeker that he is, chose the highest BAC, which I think was somewhere around .25. He actually dragged three cones beneath the cart. Later I tried those goggles on and tried to walk about three feet to him while he held out his hands for me to grab. It was like looking through a kaleidoscope. I thought I was grabbing his right hand but when I actually touched his skin, my vision shifted and corrected itself and I was actually grabbing his left. It was bizarre.
The police department takes these goggles and this obstacle course to the high schools and gets the students to experience what it is like to lose control and “kill” innocent bystanders. Will it make a difference? Will it prevent anyone from getting into a vehicle while intoxicated and destroying someone’s child, someone’s mother, someone’s grandfather?
It was a hands-on eye-opener, that is for sure. I am convinced that we need to go even further to stiffen penalties and implement whatever measures necessary to discourage people from putting their community at risk by driving a loaded weapon while their judgment, vision and reaction time are even slightly impaired.
This may be an unpopular statement, but I’d like to see the law extended to seriously punish cellphone drivers, make-up putting on drivers, anyone who decides to multitask when their attention needs to be focussed on the serious job at hand. I decided this when I saw the list of warning signs that police look for when scanning for drunk drivers, which includes: weaving, crossing the center line, turning wide, vacant stare. I have personally witnessed many of these signs in drivers wielding a cell phone while barreling down the road. I think you are impaired when your attention is divided, and if it is by something avoidable (you don’t HAVE to answer your phone!) then you are inviting disaster.
We need to take driving much more seriously and we need to somehow force people to give a crap about the people they are endangering when they drive recklessly, whether that is being intoxicated or voluntarily distracted or even just being in too big of a hurry.
This isn’t cancer or hurricanes, people, where we don’t entirely know how to make it stop. We as a society have the power to make sure that no one ever again is killed by an impaired driver, simply by choosing, each and every one of us, never again to drive unless we have our wits about us.