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Driving drunk

SHS students receive a crash course

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Harrison Middle School Student Resource Officer Chico Rodriguez drives with Sunnyside High School junior Devina Martinez Tuesday morning. Martinez is driving through a course of orange cones while wearing a pair of fatal vision goggles. "It was hard," Martinez said of driving through the course, while wearing the goggles.

Having a few beers with friends, then getting in your car and driving home is never a good idea. Tuesday morning, students at Sunnyside High School learned why that's something they shouldn't try.

During the high school's two lunch periods students were offered the chance to put on fatal vision goggles, which simulate the effect of being under the influence, then were asked to get behind the wheel of a golf cart and drive through a course marked by bright orange cones.

"It was weird. I never imagined anything like it," said Iris Ruiz after taking a drive in the golf cart. Ruiz is a high school junior and member of the Sunnyside Police Explorers. "I don't know how people can drive drunk," she said.

While Ruiz was driving the cart she couldn't manage to stay on the path. Instead, she resorted to driving through the cones and creating her own path. She said she had to take the glasses off at one point to find the roadway.

As a Police Explorer, Ruiz said she has had the opportunity to go on ride-alongs with members of the local police force and has seen first-hand what drunk drivers look like on the road.

"They swerve all over the place," Ruiz said.

Harrison Middle School Student Resource Officer Chico Rodriquez said the exercise was set up to show students how alcohol can affect their judgment.

During a drive through the course with junior Devina Martinez, Rodriguez told her that driving while intoxicated a person's mind is telling them one thing, while their body is reacting to another. He explained that in your mind you think you can drive and overcome the obstacles of the road, but all the while your body is impaired by alcohol.

Martinez said driving through the course was difficult.

"I didn't know where the road was," she said. "I needed to take off the glasses to see that I was going on the road."

As each of the students tried on the fatal vision goggles, which simulate different levels of intoxication, their reactions were all the same. They were surprised by just how much alcohol can impair a person's vision.

Senior Amanda Garcia said when she put on the goggles, which simulated what a person feels like after five drinks, everything was blurry and she was seeing double and sometimes triple.

"It was weird," she said.

Sophomore Sarah Martinez, who put the goggles on to try passing the field sobriety test, which consisted of walking a straight line, said she was surprised by just how much of effect the glasses had on her.

"It makes you dizzy, like you don't know where you're going," she said.

Michelle Gonzalez, who helped organize the drug and alcohol awareness week activities at the high school, said the driving experiment was meant to show students that although they may think they are capable of driving under the influence, "...here they see they can not."

Gonzalez said the experiment was set up to allow students to take time during their lunch break to experience what it's like to drive while intoxicated.

"They want to feel it, to see what it's like," Gonzalez said.

She said after experiencing a drive around the course while wearing the fatal vision goggles the students can see why driving under the influence can be such a grave mistake to make.

"It could be the decision they make between life and death," Gonzalez said of the decision to drive under the influence.

The driving exhibition is just one of several activities planned throughout the week. Monday, students at the school were invited to listen to a guest speaker give a presentation on the effects of drugs and alcohol.

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