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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

This 'video game' could scare us sober

Buena Vista University students were given the chance to drive drunk without getting arrested last Friday. Actually, though, there were no cars or alcohol involved. It was all part of the Save A Life Tour, an interactive experience of what it's like to drive while impaired.

The program was sponsored by BVU Wellness, Student Services, Campus Security, Spiritual Life, and the Student Activities Board.

Jordan Miller of Kramer Edu-tainment, Inc., of Grand Rapids, Mich., helped bring the two simulated drunk driving modules to the BVU campus. Miller and a partner generally visit six schools a week, sometimes traveling up to 1,000 miles a day in a Ford F 350 van towing a 27-foot trailer.

The simulator, similar to a computer game, is very realistic. It starts out fairly easily at first, but it becomes progressively difficult to drive as the driver's reaction time slows. The difference between using the simulator and actually driving drunk is that a person is aware of what is going on in the simulator. That makes a very valuable lesson to those who could otherwise tell themselves that they can drive, no matter how many drinks they have had.

"I thought it was fun," said Brandi Smith, a senior from Wilber, Neb. "I don't drive when I drink so I don't know that's what it would really be like. I think it's a safe way, especially for Buena Vista students, to find out."

Even though she's 22 and of age, Smith said she makes it a policy to never mix alcohol and driving. So just how well did she do on the simulator?

"Since I did wreck, I wouldn't be a very good drunk driver," Smith admitted.

The simulator is far from being a game. It is a great way to show college and high-school students just how hard it can be to drive while impaired.

The biggest problem about drinking and driving is that while one is under the influence a person does not realize that he or she is impaired. The false confidence that goes along with several drinks is what makes the drunk driver so dangerous. By sitting in the simulator and taking a test drive, students are able to see under safe, controlled conditions just how hard it is to drive after consuming alcohol.

The drunk driving simulator is something that everyone should try before obtaining a driver's license. It would be a great deterrent to drunk driving.

So who would pay for it?

The insurance companies would be the ones that would benefit the most. Maybe they could buy a few of the simulators and bring them around to high-school driver education classes. They could use the program as a nonprofit write-off that would actually help ensure greater profits down the road.

Mike Tidemann is assistant editor of the Pilot-Tribune