SCHS students complete impaired driving simulation

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Before their spring break and prom April 6, Shelby County High School students experienced first-hand the dangers of impaired driving.

On the morning of March 21, about 240 junior and senior students participated in activities set up around the football stadium that were designed to help them understand the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

SCHS Principal Barbara Snyder said the school holds a pre-prom program every year with a guest speaker, but decided to give the students a more interactive experience with a special simulation event organized by Lhoist North America with assistance from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and local police and fire department officials.

Students rotated through the following activities testing their gross and fine motor skills while wearing Drunk Buster Impairment goggles: Operating a pedal car through an obstacle course (Lhoist purchased the cars specifically for the event), completing a field sobriety test; putting a puzzle together; drawing a picture; and completing a cornhole/bean bag toss.

Volunteers manned the stations and provided feedback to the students during and after they completed the activities.

After participating in the cornhole activity, juniors Bella Hyatt, Sairah Kilgore and Melissa Hyde said they were more familiar with how it would feel to try to function while impaired.

“It lets you see how it messes you up,” Hyatt said.

“It feels like everything is closer than it really is,” Kilgore said. “I think it gives you perspective.”

“It shows you not to get in the car with someone that’s drunk,” Hyde said.

Students also had to steer pedal cars through a course without hitting orange cones while wearing the impairment goggles.

“It’s hard to see where they’re at,” senior Billy Fryer said. “It’s hard to have the motor skills to turn, and it was a little bit blurry.”

“I learned that drinking and driving is not cool,” senior Titus Hunt added.

SCHS was the second school at which the program was held this year. Montevallo High School hosted the program in March.

“One of our initiatives is to be more involved in the community,” Lhoist HR Manager Emily Berkes said. “We’re just trying to make sure (the students) understand the effects of alcohol and drugs.”

School Resource Officer Sasha Lilly Knighten said she hoped the program also prompts students to encourage their friends not to drive while impaired or ride with anyone who is impaired.

“I just hope the kids are able to understand the dangers of impaired driving, the dangers of distracted driving and understand that we just want to keep them safe and create good driving habits,” she said. “It’s a serious matter because it affects everybody.”