Sobering lessons: Westfield High School students experience impaired driving simulation


For an hour during the school day April 25, Westfield High School students tried their hand at a few tasks that don’t normally seem too difficult — stacking cups, walking a line, catching a ball.

But the catch for these students: Before they could perform the tasks, they had to get drunk — figuratively.

The students took part in a workshop utilizing special goggles known as “drunk busters.” The goggles mimic what happens to one’s vision when impaired. Besides small tasks to test their motor skills, the students also got behind the wheel of one of two peddle cars, testing their skills and reaction times while wearing the goggles.

The students said although the activity felt silly, it also made an impact.

“I thought it was fun, but I can’t do that in real life,” senior Nae Johnson said. “I’d need to be able to take (the goggles) off.”

Senior classmate William Goodvine III agreed.

“It was very interesting. It definitely opened my eyes on how it affects your vision,” he said.

The Westfield Police Department administered four stations to students as they wore the goggles. Billy Adams, the public information officer and field sobriety instructor for the WPD, said the program shows the students how their bodies react to being impaired. Adams said the goggles mimic double vision, which can show the students that even if they think they are OK, a task as simple as walking a line can be nearly impossible.

“It’s knowledge and empowerment,” Adams said. “What we hope is that they go out and tell their friends what they’ve experienced. We hope they take it to heart, and they learn from it and they spread that information. We hope that they choose not to drink and drive, and they’re also the ones who stop a friend from drinking and driving and be that responsible one.”

The students said although the event had a layer of humor to it — they and their peers looked and felt silly wearing the large glasses — they were able to understand the seriousness of drinking and driving, and its consequences.

“It was really confusing. It’s weird to see how different it is,” sophomore Sage Knott said. “I know I probably couldn’t focus while driving if I was impaired, but now I know for sure that I cannot see the lines.”

Adams said the program is an important way to illuminate the dangers of drinking and driving during prom season and as summer approaches. He also said that the adults in the room are aware that the exercise has a “fun” side to it, since it is a simulation where the students are not actually impaired. He said in an effort to temper the fun part of the afternoon, the police also arm the students with information to help them understand just what drinking and driving can mean.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, automobile accidents account for 40 percent of deaths for youth aged 15 to 20. Of teen drivers who are victims of fatal car crashes, 23 percent possess a blood alcohol content of .08 or above, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.

Statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving show that one person dies every 39 minutes from preventable drunk driving, and 31 percent of fatal collisions are the result of an impaired driver.

The program at Westfield High School was funded through a grant from the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs and a donation from Flanner Buchanan, which was used to purchase multiple sets of the goggles as well as two pedal cars.

Drinking and driving by the numbers

Students wearing the “drunk buster” goggles were able to see how drinking can impair their vision. But Westfield High School and Westfield Police Department officials also made sure the students were given relevant information in order to understand just how serious driving while impaired can be.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has compiled some of the most shocking statistics on impaired driving, including:

  • Every 79 seconds someone is killed or injured in a drunk driving crash.
  • About 31 percent of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.
  • Every day, about 37 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes, one person every 39 minutes.
  • In 2021, 13,384 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths, a 14 percent increase from 2020.
  • Drunk driving deaths are up 31 percent since 2019
  • In 2021 there were 388,136 injuries due to a drunk driving crash.
  • In 2021 401,520 people were killed or injured in a drunk driving crash.

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