Teens simulate driving while drunk

Velma_High school proms are right around the corner, and along with proms come parties and along with those come teenage drinking.  School officials and police are concerned that kids will drink, and then try to drive home.  Driving while drunk poses a threat to both their lives, and everyone else on the road.  So, schools are partnering with state troopers, local police, and the State Farm Bureau, to teach teens about the realities of drunk driving.

Velma-Alma High School's prom is April 4, and Wednesday, state troopers and Oklahoma Farm Bureau members had students wear vision-impairing goggles to simulate intoxication.  Wearing the goggles, the students tried driving, and took field sobriety tests.

They drove go-carts around a field, but it wasn't a day at the races.  The students wore goggles to simulate intoxication.  Justin Grego of Federal Farm Bureau Safety Services is hoping this will help convince the teens that it isn't wise to drink and drive.  "Don't drive, because this is a simulation of what's going to happen that night," he said.

Grego visits Oklahoma schools every day, and has kids weave through a course of cones representing people.  Even school superintendent Jerry Garrett went for a ride.  "It was virtually really impossible to drive through those cones," he said.  "I definitely wouldn't want to try it again."

7News photographer Travis Stewart and reporter Robert Richardson gave it a try, too.  Going as slow as they could, didn't make any difference at all.  They knocked over one cone after another.  "I've seen quite a few first-hand incidences with DUI crashes," says Oklahoma State Trooper Nathan Mackey.  "I've had to go notify many families that their loved ones have been killed in alcohol-related crashes.  That's definitely the hardest part of the job," he says.

Mackey gave a presentation emphasizing seatbelt safety.  He says although you may not be drunk while driving, someone else might be.  Event coordinators say if they made a single young adult aware of the dangers of drunk driving, they've made a difference.  "The program they put on in the auditorium today, and the film they showed, if they don't get something out of it, then maybe we've got a problem," says Principal Mike Thompson.

They say they know the program works.  "This group went out in the country, and some of them were drinking," said Kitty Beavers Vice Chair of the Farm Bureau Women's Committee.  "They started to leave, and this one girl remembered the program that we had presented, and she called her parents.  Some of the kids had gone on home and caused an accident, but we felt at least it was worth it.  We saved one girl."

State troopers reminded students that for anyone under 21, any measurable amount of alcohol will result in an arrest for a DUI.  Velma-Alma will also provide an alternative prom after-party to keep kids off the road and sober.  They'll provide teens with food and activities from midnight til 4 a.m.