Altered vision eye-opener in distracted driving class

Altered vision eye-opener in distracted driving class

NEW ULM — New Ulm High School’s tenth-grade Health class got a crash course in the dangers of impaired driving Thursday.

The impaired driving class is an annual tradition at the high school. Health teacher Anita Longtin said the class is for tenth graders because many of them are starting to get their licenses and so they respond to the lesson.

This year the impaired driving course was set up outside, in the school parking lot, instead of the gym. Sgt. First Class Cameron Jeske and Specialist Deandre Parker with the Minnesota Army National Guard helped demonstrate the effects of driving while under the influence of various substances. Students were asked to pedal a cart through a cone course while wearing different types of goggles that obscured the wearer’s vision. The different goggles could simulate a 0.26 blood alcohol level, marijuana, prescription drugs or LSC and Ecstasy.

Having their vision altered was an eye-opening experience for the students. Many were immediately uncomfortable with the googles.

“This is terrible, I don’t like this,” Jackson Fruhwirth said after putting on the goggles. He proceeded to hit several cones on the obstacle course.

A field sobriety course had the students attempting to balance on one foot while wearing the goggles. Jaden Ludewig said with the goggles he had trouble understanding where his limbs were in relation to his head.

Another important test was the distracted driving course. The students were told to pedal the car straight while attempting to text a six-word message. This was to demonstrate the dangers of texting while driving. Nearly every student failed the exercise. Most hit at least one cone while texting and driving. Amelia Braulick managed to avoid hitting any cones, but she did not complete the six-word text message, suggesting she was more focused on the driving.

New Ulm Police Officer Jay Backer said distracted driving is a big problem even with the hands-free driving law.

“It is a good thing to show them how distracted they can become,” Jeske said. He said sometimes something as simple as talking with friends can cause an accident.

Jeske said this was an effective teaching method. Rather than telling kids what is wrong, the course shows them why.

“Overall I feel the youth are responsible,” Jeske said. “This does remind them other people are on the road.”

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