Students learn about impaired driving during Arrive Alive Tour

Published 4:25 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer

ALABASTER – Local students recently learned about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving through a virtual reality simulation during the Arrive Alive Tour’s second visit to Thompson High School.

Alabaster City Schools students donned VR headsets on Thursday, Oct. 26 as part of the annual Arrive Alive Tour which teaches students about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving by putting them behind the wheel of simulation.

“We hope they walk away with the realization of, ‘I need to make good decisions, I can’t drive under the impairment of some sort (of substance),” said Brandon Mathews, program director of Alabaster For Tomorrow, a volunteer effort in the city to prevent substance abuse.

During the tour, students get behind the wheel of a real vehicle and put on a VR headset that places them in a simulation of a situation in which they are driving under the influence of marijuana, alcohol or distracted driving.

“You see a student walk up and they’re very confident in their ability to do it themselves thinking that there’s nothing that is going to prevent them from being successful,” Mathews said. “But then they walk away going, ‘Oh man, I didn’t realize that I could not do it.’ So, it’s this sobering reality from just being told something to experiencing (it).”

This year’s Arrive Alive Tour at Thompson High School began with local students from the Day Program in Alabaster which provides an alternative academic program for at-risk adolescents by giving them opportunity.

One student shared his experience after trying the simulation and receiving a score.

“It was one heck of an experience,” Cole Bookwalter said. “It was drunk driving and, in my opinion, it was pretty scary because it was hard to stop and hard to steer because you could only see half your vision and it was very blurry when you tried to turn.”

This year’s visit by the Arrive Alive Tour also coincided with the school’s recognition of Red Ribbon Week.

“It’s great to have during Red Ribbon Week because it gives children the actual experience of being behind the wheel (while) simulated and impaired,” said Sherrita Drake, mental health coordinator for Alabaster City Schools. “A lot of them think, ‘Oh, I can handle it’ until they’re actually in it. This is a safe environment for them to have before they’re on the road driving.”

During the Arrive Alive Tour, Detective Tommy Stewart and Cpl. John St. Pierre visited Thompson High School visited THS alongside the Alabaster Prevention Community, For Tomorrow, to educate teens about distracted and intoxicated driving.

“Our roads should be safe for everyone, but sadly, distractions and intoxication continue to pose significant threats,” St. Pierre said. “Distracted and intoxicated driving claim countless lives every year.”

Detective Stewart works with students as part of the APD’s partnership with Compact and Cpl. St. Pierre is a law enforcement board member for the Alabaster Prevention Community.

“By raising awareness and understanding the consequences, we can make a difference,” St. Pierre said. “Let’s stand together in advocating for education on these crucial issues. Together, we can create a society where everyone understands the importance of staying focused and sober while driving.”