By Amanda Hayes
Senior Staff Writer
BUCKHANNON — Within a couple minutes, a student driver under the influence of alcohol killed two pedestrians before striking another vehicle head-on causing a fatal crash.
The student walked away from the crash because it was all part of a DUI simulator experience brought to driver’s education students at Buckhannon-Upshur High School this week.
The simulator mimics impaired driving, first allowing the students to drive sober and then showing the difficulties as the simulation begins showing an elevated blood alcohol content — all the way to .08.
“Today we will get Mr. McCoy’s driver’s ed and then tomorrow, if there is school, we will get Mrs. Zuliani’s driver’s ed students out there,” Dan Pickens, DUI simulator coordinator, said.
“They get a little bit of time to drive sober and then the longer they drive the machine starts changing the different blood alcohol levels from .02 to .08. The longer they drive, the more intoxicated they get. As that goes up, the machine changes to mimic the affects of alcohol.”
The students will experience the delayed reaction time and poor hand-eye coordination and losing fine motor skills, according to Pickens.
The simulation is realistic with students sitting in a driver’s seat and steering themselves.
“Hopefully with the hands-on experience that we are giving them, it gives them a tool to make it a whole lot easier to do the right thing and not drink and drive because they have been a part of this,” Pickens said. “They can see it, feel it and experience it.”
Along with the hands-on component, there is a classroom lesson.
Junior Kacey Shiflett said she saw how the effects of alcohol could impair her driving.
“It was hard to steer,” she said.
Weather-permitting, Pickens said the DUI simulator would be headed to Phillip Barbour High School and then Liberty High School.
“It takes us about three years to hit every single high school in the state,” he said.
The program is sponsored by State Farm, Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association.