Simulation shows dangers of impaired driving

Student wearing goggles sits on a cart. A police officer stands nearby

Herkimer students were driving under the influence on Monday — but no laws were broken in the process.

The vehicle in question was a pedal-powered four-wheeler, and the students’ impairment didn’t come from any illegal substance, but rather from a pair of goggles.

Prevention coordinator Crystal Gerhardt arranged to have the simulation, which is the property of Herkimer College, set up at the high school so that students could learn firsthand about the dangers of impaired driving.

Students took turns trying on the goggles, which simulate the intoxicating effects of marijuana, to try a variety of activities. A group of sixth-graders learned that the goggles impaired their ability to differentiate between different colors when Ms. Gerhardt asked them to try to pick out a purple paper clip from a container full of different-colored clips. They also saw how the goggles distort vision when they tried to find their name on a list of names, and highlight it using a marker.

High school students in health and driver’s education classes got to get behind the wheel of the “Fatal Vision” cart and try their hand at an obstacle course, where colored lights signalled them to stop, go, turn right or turn left. Students said the goggles made them feel dizzy, and that it was hard to see straight or to tell what colors the lights were.

Ms. Gerhardt and School Resource Officer Shauna Jones spoke with the students about the effects of impairment on judgment and perception.

“We wanted to show them that it actually impairs their driving ability,” Ms. Gerhardt said, “especially with break coming up.”

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