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Simulation teaches Madawaska High School sophomores what drunk driving is like

MADAWASKA, Maine — Madawaska High School sophomores participated in a drunk driving course demonstration Wednesday during their health class to realize the dangers of driving drunk.

The drunk driving course was the third and final stage in the driver’s safety unit. During the first stage, Lt. Jamie Pelletier of the Madawaska Police Department spoke to the class about speeding and dangerous driving. The second stage involved a distracted driver simulation for the students to get the feel for how dangerous it is to text and drive. A piece of equipment called a “seatbelt convincer” also was used during that second stage to simulate the positive impact of a seatbelt in the event of a crash.

For the final stage, the students put on alcohol impairment goggles that simulate the effect of having a .08 percent blood alcohol level. First they were asked to take the sobriety test. Then the fun began.

Cones were set up throughout the multipurpose center to create a driving course. The students had to drive in a golf cart from one end to the other without bumping into cones. Sophomore Kurtis Kelly, 16,, already has his driver’s license and decided he wanted to take a shot at the drunk driving course.

“It wasn’t the hardest, but the cones look farther than they are and when you get closer to them, they suddenly seem too close,” Kelly said afterward.

While Kelly was driving through, the physical education and health teacher, Tom Gerard, who apparently wanted to add a little element of surprise, acted like a moose on the side of the course. As Kelly got through the first round of cones, Gerard darted out in front of the cart with his hands by his head like a moose.

“I felt very nervous,” Kelly said. “I felt like I should’ve stopped right away, but I didn’t know what to do or expect from Mr. Gerard.”

Gerard said he hopes that the students will understand the seriousness of driving under the influence, but that he knows the decision is up to them.

“It’s all about choices,” he said. “We can tell them not to do it, but in the end, it is their decision.”

Jessica Pelletier, a paramedic for Madawaska, helped run the event to show the students the dangers of drunk driving.

“I hope you all really understand how serious this is,” Jessica Pelletier said at the end of the demonstration. “In this town alone, we have had multiple high schoolers, seniors, some within a week of graduation, that have had drunk driving accidents.”

She went on the explain the process of how the parents are notified that their child was in a drunk driving accident.

“I can look at your faces, and know that none of you want to do that to your parents.”

The class went over some ideas of what to do in case one of them were to get drunk at a party. Some students suggested sleeping in their car, calling a taxi, or walking home. The presenters indicated that walking in the wintertime when it’s freezing is not recommended since hypothermia or even death could occur. One student made it very clear that he knew he could always call his parents.

Lt. Pelletier conducted the event last year at the high school as well, and said that calling friends or a family member was a good idea.

“They might get mad at you for calling late and being in that state, but it is better than you being absent from their lives for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Then the lieutenant made a suggestion that shocked the group of students.

“If you end up drunk or scared at a party, or in a bad place, call us,” he said. “We’ll take you home. We might have a talk with your parents, but it won’t get you in trouble with the law. We care most about your safety.”

Follow Morgan Mitchell on Twitter @TheMaineMorgan

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