By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Senior and junior high school students at Pearl River Central got a chance to see what it’s like to drive while drunk or while under the influence of marijuana on Thursday.
DUI officers with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department and representatives with the 8th Judicial District Drug Court visited the school armed with “drunk goggles” and a small driving course utilizing cones and a golf cart.
Drug Court Probation Officer Vickie Patrick said similar programs are put on for various schools, colleges and even churches. The purpose is to teach drivers about the dangers of driving drunk or after using marijuana.
She said some teenagers think they can drive safely after drinking two or three beers, but once they attempt to drive with the goggles on, they learn the dangers.
Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department DUI officer David Johnson said the goggles simulate various levels of blood alcohol consumption, depending on the goggles used. DUI officer Jason Lee said the hope is that, with prom coming up, students will think twice about driving drunk to or from a prom event or party.
Both Lee and Johnson are part of the county’s DUI enforcement program, funded by a DUI grant.
Drug Court officer Jeremy Belk spoke to the students before the driving demonstration about a man who was incarcerated. Belk said he was introduced to the young man while working in a maximum security prison. The young man was 18 when he was charged with DUI manslaughter. Even though he consumed only a couple of drinks, the driver of an oncoming car suffered a heart attack, causing a deadly head-on collision. Even though the young man, who was 18-years-old at the time, was not legally drunk, he was convicted of DUI manslaughter.
“You don’t want to lose your life or hurt someone else’s,” Patrick said.
After the presentation the students saw two people attempt to walk a straight line wearing the goggles. Both volunteers saw their coordination altered by wearing the goggles. Afterwards, they all gathered outside to drive the golf cart while wearing the goggles. Most students hit cones or completely ran them over, while a few were able to drive the course without hitting a single cone.
Lee said he and Johnson also conduct the child restraint program where officers will ensure parents use child safety seats properly, or stop using a recalled child safety seat. Families that need a proper child safety seat receive one free of charge as part of the program.