July 1, 2006 Health educators can now give students a realistic taste of the perils of drunk driving, using a DUI simulator. Special go-carts delay the reaction of the brake and gas pedals and exaggerate the response of the steering wheel, making students realize how even a buzz -- let alone being drunk -- can impair their reflexes.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.--Each year, 17,000 people are killed because someone drove while drunk or on drugs, and 1.4 million Americans are arrested for driving under the influence. Some just get a ticket or lose their license. Others end up with more serious consequences. Now a high-tech go-cart may help put the brakes on impaired drivers.
These college students are finding out what it's like to lose control -- what it's like to be a drunk driver. They're testing out a go-cart called SIDNE -- a Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience.
"We often focus on drunk driving, but you don't have to be drunk to be impaired. You can be buzzed," says Dan Moore, a health educator at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
He uses this simulated technology to show students what could happen -- "Delayed reaction on the brake; delayed reaction on the gas pedal; an exaggerated function of the steering," he tells DBIS.
A remote device controls when the person behind the wheel is sober or totally out of control. "If I just touched the steering wheel like that ... It just completely turned the other way," student Tara Baldrick-Morrone says. Others were completely out of control.
Moore says when you try to correct when you are in the impaired mode, you basically correct too far, which an impaired person would do. With SIDNE's help, instructors hope drivers make better decisions before getting behind the wheel.
SIDNE is already being used to teach high school students about drunk driving and is also part of local driving schools across the country.
BACKGROUND: Simulated Impaired Driving Experience (SIDNE) is the newest tool in the fight against drunk driving. It's a battery-powered, remote-controlled vehicle that resembles a go-cart and simulates the experience of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. SIDNE is now being introduced by health educators and law enforcement around the country to enable high school and college students to experience firsthand the often unimagined impact of driving while under the influence.
WHAT IS ALCOHOL? Alcohol is created through the natural process of fermentation. This happens when yeast and sugar from vegetables and grains change the sugar into alcohol. When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream, where it can affect the central nervous system ý the control center for your entire body. Alcohol slows down this control center with its sedative effect. In moderation it can reduce anxiety, but it also blocks some of the commands the brain sends to other parts of the body, so it alters your senses. That why, when drunk, people have trouble walking, talking, and some may even black out and not remember what they said or did. Drink enough alcohol and it can even be fatal.
LEGAL LEVELS: We all absorb alcohol into the bloodstream at different rates, mostly influenced by weight, although there are other factors, including body type, metabolism, and any medications someone might be taking. A person with a blood alcohol level of .08 to .10 is legally intoxicated, and for most people, this is the equivalent of just a few drinks. You can calculate blood alcohol content based upon how many drinks you've had, the percentage of alcohol in each, your weight, and the time spend drinking. The human liver can metabolize about an ounce of alcohol every hour (about one beer).
A FEW FACTS: In 2004, nearly 17,000 people in the United States died in alcohol-related car crashes. That same year, about 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Each year, alcohol-related crashes in the United States cost about $51 billion.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.