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MDOT shows off simulators locally

The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s rollover and DUI simulators were at Picayune Memorial High School Wednesday, courtesy of the Picayune Police Department.

ROVER, another name for the rollover simulator, and SIDNE, the Simulated Impaired Driving Experience, were brought to the school as part of the police department’s pre-prom campaign to teach juniors and seniors about driving while under the influence and wearing safety belts, said Deputy Chief David Ervin.

The police department has sponsored similar programs just before prom for many years now, in the hopes of reducing alcohol and drug-related accidents on prom night.

“We try to schedule these things just before prom so awareness is there and there isn’t a lot of time for other things to cloud the issues,” said Ervin. “We believe it’s effective, and we see students take active participation. They deserve a lot of credit in this.”

Other programs in the past have included staged wreck scenes and presentations by members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said Lieutenant Bryan Dawsey, an officer with the police department and coordinator of the school resource officers

Dawsey contacted MDOT about the simulators after reading about them on a flier a few months back.

“We were just trying to do something different,” said Dawsey.

The pre-prom programs are sponsored by the school resource officers, who receive the support they need from the schools.

ROVER is a small Ford Ranger pickup truck that is mounted on a trailer. The cab of the truck is altered so that it rotates at 35 miles per hour, simulating the effects of a rollover crash.

Lisa Valardie, a paramedic who does contract work with the MDOT Injury Prevention Program, said she has been working with ROVER since 2000. Valardie uses three stuffed dummies that she calls the “Buckle Family” to demonstrate correct seat-belt usage.

She began her program by demonstrating how not wearing a seat-belt can result in being thrown from a vehicle. She then showed the effects of not restraining children as well as driving with a child in the driver’s lap.

Valardie said if even one person is not restrained in the vehicle, it could be damaging to the rest of the occupants in the vehicle. She proved this point by restraining a child dummy in the passenger side, while leaving the driver dummy unrestrained. The unbuckled dummy flew around inside the cab, striking the child dummy several times before being thrown from the car.

Valardie said to the students, “The chances of being seriously injured or killed are 25% greater if you’re riding with someone who is unrestrained.”

When Valardie buckled all the dummies properly, none of them moved around during several rotations of the cab, proving the effectiveness of safety restraints.

Christy Millbourne, a safety representative for MDOT, and J. R.. Braswell, an MDOT Engineering Technician, had set up a course for SIDNE. The modified go-cart has a sober and a DUI mode, and simulates delayed response driving by inserting a three to four second delay between the driver’s motions and actual response time. For example, if the driver turns the wheel to the left, it takes a few seconds before SIDNE recognizes the turn and responds.

Millbourne said it’s important that the students are aware of the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol, but they also need to understand that other things such as prescription and over-the-counter medications and driving while tired can also cause delayed response time.

Millbourne told the students, “901 people died in car crashes last year, and 40% of those are alcohol related.”

After running SIDNE a couple of times, however, Millbourne and Braswell decided not to allow the students to continue riding the simulator, because the course they had set up was smaller than their usual course and did not allow as much room for maneuvering as it generally would. The go-cart has no active brake, and there was concern that the go-cart might flip over because of the narrowness of the road.

Millbourne said she would be happy to bring SIDNE back if they could find a larger area to put the course.

PMHS junior/senior prom will be held on Saturday, May 12.