The National Save-A-Life Tour does not soft-pedal its message on the very real dangers of drinking and driving.

Using sophisticated drunk-driving simulators and multimedia displays that include accident footage and scenes from the emergency room, the powerful presentation is designed to be both gut-wrenching and enlightening.

"The Save-A-Life Tour is a hard-hitting, eye-opening, in-your-face experience," said Dave Frandrich, a consultant for the tour.

That is precisely why Fort Meade's Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Office is sponsoring the three-day program Aug. 26 to 28 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at McGill Training Center.

"This is a must-attend event for young drivers and those interested in 'experiencing' what it is like to drive under the influence of substances -- without the risks," said Kenneth Jones, ASAP alcohol and drug control officer.

The free event is open to the entire Fort Meade community. Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas has authorized one hour of administrative leave for employees to attend.

"The goal is to at least reduce the number of drinking and driving [incidents] among service members and their families," said Wilhelmina Cromartie, ASAP prevention coordinator.

For the past eight years, the high-impact alcohol awareness program has been presented to high schools, colleges and military installations. The National Save-A-Life Tour is provided by Edu-tainment, a division of the Michigan-based Kramer Entertainment.

"We use a shock-jock approach," Frandrich said. "We believe this is probably the best way to do it, a mass-media approach. Lectures aren't working. We receive letters daily, from seniors in high school to generals, on the impact we've had."

High-tech simulators allow participants to experience the effects of driving while intoxicated from a sober perspective.

Participants first become acclimated to driving in a virtual world by practicing in a "rabbit" unit, a single 19-inch TV screen. Then they sit behind the wheel of a Ford Taurus with all the controls of a real car and a 185-degree field of vision provided by three 42-inch LCDs surrounding the driver.

The driving world features a 50-square-mile virtual landscape with more than 87 miles of roadway from city to rural driving. Drivers can feel the running of the motor and air conditioner as well as the bumps in the road and pull of the steering wheel. They are even confronted throughout with varying weather conditions including fog, rain, snow and ice.

Participants start off "sober" as levels of impairment are selected based on each individual's height and weight as calculated by 57 sensors. Two projection screens, each 8 feet by 10 feet, display the driver's view and a helicopter view of the vehicle in traffic as well as the driver's progressive levels of impairment.

In addition, three monitors and two projection screens play public service announcements and driver-impact videos -- from the sounds of screeching brakes and screams to traumatic injuries. "It's all real footage," Frandrich said. "We use real life, no actors."

The display also includes an empty casket with the sign: "Reserved for the next drinking and driving victim."

"Our message is graphic and many find it hard to watch. We do not care if students cry or get sick to their stomachs -- we have had it happen. This is the whole point. We want them to experience the shattering reality of the bleeding, the broken bones, the shattered glass, the twisted metal, and all too often, the death and the casket," according to program literature.

"We want this to be an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives because driving under the influence is no accident. It is 100 percent about choice. The lives forever changed and forever lost are caused by someone making a dangerous and destructive choice."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16