Teens learn about drinking and driving in state DUI simulator

by Kate Evans
Berkeley Springs High School driver’s education and health class students got to experience the challenges of driving under the influence in the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration’s new DUI simulator on March 12.  Health and driver’s education teacher Holli McCumbee said the DUI simulator program is primarily for sophomores and juniors.
Dan Pickens and Dennis Payne from the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration were on hand to talk with kids about the dangers of drinking and driving and to supervise them in the DUI simulator trailer.
In the DUI simulator, teens encountered slick roads and tried to miss hitting highway signs, people running out on the roadway, police cars, an overturned truck and a school bus on the roadside with lots of kids standing outside-all as the simulation kept increasing the blood alcohol level steering effects and decreasing the ability to avoid the hazards while driving.
The effects of the simulator are delivered mostly through steering and braking and impair the driver like alcohol. Students learn the dangers of drinking and driving in a safe way, Pickens said.
The life-saving DUI simulator program has been at 604 events and been experienced by more than 54,000 people-mostly students-since 2010, said WVABCA Commissioner Fred Wooten in a press release. It’s a valuable tool to combat underage drinking and distracted driving, he noted.  The new simulator is much larger with enhanced graphics and the driver’s seat moves in reaction to the driving course.
The program provides youth the opportunity to experience various driving conditions, hazards and scenarios while safely using a simulation program.  The simulation mimics the difficulties drivers will encounter at various blood alcohol content (BAC) levels.  The program also includes a classroom lecture.
Pickens said that in the classroom portion they explain to kids how the simulator works along with addressing drinking and driving and insurance issues.  Local State Farm insurance agent Luke Christie had stopped in some.
The new DUI simulator/trailer and program funding is provided by grant funding from State Farm, the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.