Students learn first hand what driving impaired is like

Barbara Anne Greene

The Wyoming Highway Patrol with the assistance of two Big Horn County school resources officers set up a DUI course on April 31 at the Burlington Schools. The course was the second part of a presentation about not driving impaired and wearing your seatbelt that organized by Vicky Rosser of Greybull. Rosser was hit by a drunk driver between Shell and Greybull.

Troopers Jason Roascio and Anthony Landers, Lt. Jeremy Pittsley along with SROs Nate Krieder and Shane Broust put up a course with cones for students at the Burlington School to drive.

Students first drove the course in a golf cart without goggles. Then drove it again while wearing goggles that simulate various levels of intoxication.

The presumptive legal limit in the state of Wyoming is a .08 blood alcohol level. Pittsley said the goggles blur the vision of the wearer so they can experience what it is like to drive at various levels on intoxication. They make you visually drunk but they don’t make you mentally drunk. So it is possible to make it through the course without hitting a cone.

Roascio has done these simulations every year since he became a trooper. The goal is to instill good driving habits as well as preventing future impaired driving. Impaired includes driving under the influence, not wearing your seatbelt, texting and driving. He feels that for the most part the students do learn from wearing the goggles. They tell him it is really hard to drive, to walk and even just stand with the goggles on. “Why do people do this?”

Joseph Stanworth was one of those students. After driving the course with the goggles he said the experience was very strange. “I wouldn’t want to drive drunk. That would be dumb.”

Adam Bollinger agreed, “It was terrible. Every time you moved your head everything just wiggles.” He added if he knew someone was about to drive impaired he would tell him or her “Don’t be stupid.”

McKenna House not only drove the course, she tried throwing a ball back and fourth with a friend and took a sobriety test with Trooper Roascio. She said, “Everything was moving, spinning and I couldn’t concentrate.”

Another student Josh Tolman drove the course a few times and was asked if he realized he drove quicker with the goggles on than when he drove without them. He said he had no speed perception.

Pittsley said this was not uncommon with a divided attention test. Drivers concentrate so much on trying to not hit the cones they forget they also have to operate the accelerator. Which is consistent with DUI’s. One of the effects of impaired driving is relaxed inhibition. Its not unusual to get a DUI driver driving 90 mph. They do things they normally wouldn’t

David Long said he felt way woozier with the goggles than he thought he would and that stuff was moving randomly. “I thought I was going fast but I was going slow.”

Prior to this part of the presentation, students heard stories from people whose lives had been forever changed because of someone driving under the influence.

During that portion, statistics were shared with them. Some of those statistics were:

• People who are arrested for drunk driving admitted to driving drunk 80 times.

• Thirty-three percent of all people arrested for DUI have been arrested for driving under the influence in the past.

• In 2020 approximately 30% of deaths on U.S. Highways involved alcohol or drugs.

• One out of every four accidents in America is caused by texting and driving. For drivers and front seat passengers, seatbelts reduces the risk of death by 45% and the risk of serious injury by 50%.

• People not wearing a seatbelt are 30% more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash. In 2020 Wyoming was number two in the nation for drunk driving related fatalities.

• In the United States one person in every 48 minutes dies in an alcohol related crash.

A similar course will be set up May 15, 2 p.m. at the Greybull Rec District after a speaker presentation. The public is invited.