Forsyth County students learn effects of drunk driving

Class gives lessons, dangers of poor decisions

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CUMMING – The Fatal Vision goggles made Madison Higham, a junior at West Forsyth High School, act as if she had a .25 blood alcohol level.

Getting through a sobriety test was “hard and confusing,” she said.

On Thursday, Feb. 24, about 70 students got a chance to feel what it’s like to be drunk without the hangover. The event was part of Ford Motor Company and Governor's Highway Safety Association nationwide Driving Skills for Life tour.

The real-world presentations were to raise awareness about driver distraction and dangerous road condition skills.

Drivers like Bianca Papa, a freshman at WFHS, tried to text her mom, “hi mom, I’m texting and driving.”

Ford Co. driving instructor Todd Cook told Papa to explain it to her mother later. Papa didn’t get far without knocking several cones around a tight course. Student drivers were then told to drive around a course while searching for a specific radio station. That didn’t go too well, either. Finally, the Fatal Vision goggles were put on and several more cones were knocked down. The advantage was the goggles only impaired their vision and not their judgment, Cook said.

Cook’s message to Papa and other teen drivers: “Keep both hands on the wheel, don’t play with the radio or your cellphone.”

“You’re doing 50-to-60-miles per hour and you cover a lot of ground out there on the highway,” Cook said. “You may not get a second chance.”

Ford instructor Mike Speck said that the driving skills, which are part of a $1 million 30 city national tour and funded by the Ford Fund are not meant to put fear on the students.

“We’re not trying to use scare tactics, we’re using statistics,” Speck said. “All the decisions they make is what will determine their outcome.”

Speck said car crashes are a leading cause of teenage death and many crashes could have been avoided if drivers weren’t distracted and had better space management.

Students were also geared toward another driving course where they had to handle a car that would oversteer or “loose” – in racing terminology.

This simulated dangerous road conditions and students were told not to slam on the breaks – as is instinctual – when they lost control of their car.

“We’re teaching them to turn their head and train them to find an exit or a safe place,” said Steve Swinnerton, another driving instructor with Ford.

The hands-on message seemed to get through.

“I didn’t know it when you get out of control, if you give left, you steer to the right,” said Tristan Wiggins, a freshman at WFHS.

During the student’s lunch period, they were given a chance to learn more about Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and pick up safety tips from Forsyth County Fire Department and Forsyth County Sheriff outreach personnel.