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‘Careening’ down the road

By Staff | Mar 28, 2014

Jonathan Hanson of Estherville tries his hand hand at ‘impaired’ driving Wednesday in the Iowa Lakes Community College Estherville campus atrium while Denny Becker of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau tried to distract him. Photo by Michael Tideman

Iowa Lakes Community College students Wednesday had a firsthand experience with impaired driving – but in a totally safe setting.

According to Mick Mulhern Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau youth coordinator, the traffic simulator gave students a similar experience as texting and driving while impaired. Mulhern was assisted to Denny Becker, impaired driving coordinator.

“It was really fun,” said Abigail Winter, Iowa Lakes student from Armstrong. “I felt like I should be able to do better but I did so bad.”

While students tried to drive the simulator which had a number of unexpected road hazards, Becker distracted them. Then students donned a pair of fogged goggles that simulated a .17 alcohol level. And if that wasn’t enough, they tried texting, too.

Mulhern said the purpose of it all was to let students see what it’s like to text and drive or drive while impaired. He underscored that car crashes are the number-one cause of teen deaths in Iowa, with distracted or impaired driving topping the list.

Mulhern said he and Becker also did a survey of students’ driving behaviors.

While it’s hard to measure the success of the program – that would require test and control groups, of course – Mulhern said every year the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau looks at fatalities of specific age groups.

“And hopefully, we can look at that number decline,” Mulhern said.

The simulator was also set up at the Iowa Lakes Emmetsburg campus.