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Students see how quickly they can lose control behind wheel

September 18, 2010
“Congratulations,” said the man in the passenger’s seat next to me in the yellow Volkswagen Beetle. “You just killed us all.” He was exaggerating. I didn’t kill anyone. But I could have, very easily, if this was a real life situation. Mike Martin, the man in the passenger’s seat, created the “Safety Bug,” a modified VW beetle, for the sole purpose of demonstrating just how much the consumption of alcohol slows down the body’s reflexes. Martin, of the Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence Association, was in Warren County this week, giving rides to students to show them what one drink can do when they are behind the wheel of a car. He brought his demonstration to Warren Area High School and Sheffield High School on Thursday. On Friday, he traveled to Youngsville for a demonstration for Youngsville and Eisenhower students. The concept is simple. Student drivers with a valid license take two laps on an oval course outlined with orange traffic cones. On the second time around, a switch is activated, causing a seven-tenths of a second delay in the reaction of the steering – the same delay in a person’s reflexes after one drink. The simulation switches on suddenly, adding to the dramatic effect. So sudden, that I steered the “Safety Bug” sharply to the right and took out an entire row of orange safety cones. If it had been a sidewalk crowded with people instead of cones, no one would have had a chance. Students without driver’s licenses ride in the back of the Bug wearing goggles designed to distort their vision, simulating the effects of being drunk. How effective are the goggles? One student stumbled out of the back of the VW looking green, muttering, “That wasn’t a good idea,” as he took off his goggles. Try walking a straight line with them. Sheffield police officer Dan Madigan lined students up while they wore goggles simulating a blood alcohol level of .17 to .20 and asked them to walk a straight line. Students staggered and windmilled their arms as they tried to keep their balance as they attempted to comply. According to Sara Connelly, Sheffield’s Student Against Drunk Driving (SADD) advisor, the state’s DUI Association brings the “Safety Bug” demonstration to the district’s high schools every two years. “We rotate this between the mock DUI crash and DUI simulator,” she said.

Article Photos

Times Observer photo by Dean Wells
The Safety Bug
Students at Sheffield High School took the “Safety Bug” for a spin Thursday as part of a DUI demonstration.



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