Save A Life tour offers sobering experience
Lt. Col. Michael Snipes, U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Headquarters Command commander, takes a turn on the Save A Life Tour driving simulator during a presentation Tuesday at The Commons at Fort McPherson. The device simulates what it is like to drive under the influence of alcohol or other substances to educate people on the dangers of substance abuse. The experience didn’t go well for Snipes, who caused a two-car crash and ended up getting a mock ticket.

FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- The Save A Life tour set up shop at The Commons at Fort McPherson, providing Soldiers and Civilian employees with a sobering look at the dangers of drinking and driving.

Using a $2.4 million simulator, participants in the program sat behind the wheel of a mock, yet realistic, car interior and tried to navigate their way through a three-to four-minute scenic drive.

The 85 miles of simulated road were filled with traffic signs, lights and other vehicles that drivers have to safely interact with in real life.

However, in the simulation, drivers also had to contend with built-in delays that simulated the diminished response time of drivers under the influence, said Chris Rich, Save A Life tour road manager, during the Sept. 7-8 stop here.

The delays, which varied in length between a split second, a half second and a full second, were built into the car's accelerator, brakes and steering wheel, Rich said.

Besides leading to some hilarious results for those watching, the delays often forced drivers to overcompensate, leading to more out of control behavior from the vehicle.

Such delays also led to some drivers experiencing tunnel vision, Rich said, adding that although the vehicle had rear and side mirrors, these tended to be ignored when issues in front of the driver became apparent.

"People get so focused on the delay they tend to ignore the sides," Rich said. "People incorporate tunnel vision into the program by themselves."

Ignoring objects on the sides and rear proved even deadlier due to the aggressive nature of drivers programmed into the simulator.

Rich said some drivers in the simulated environment were programmed to ignore traffic signs.

Lt. Col. Michael Snipes, U.S. Army Garrison Headquarters Command commander, said the simulator was challenging and much more realistic than he expected.

Under simulated influence, Snipes caused a two-car crash, thus getting cited with a mock ticket for driving under the influence.

"It's great for Soldiers," Snipes said of the training.

Such training is just one of the ways DoD is trying to proactively deal with substance abuse in both the military and Civilian employee work force, said Moses Simmons Jr., USAG Wellness Center alcohol and drug control officer.

"We lose a lot of young people, Soldiers and Civilians due to drunk driving," he said.

To reduce damage done to Families and military property due to substance abuse, Simmons said the military is taking a proactive stance to heighten awareness of the dangers of substance abuse through education and focus on risk reduction.

By Army regulation, Simmons said military personnel must receive four hours of substance abuse training yearly and Civilian employees are required to take two hours.

The Save A Life tour, a fusion of education and entertainment, is just one of the tools the military has decided to use, Simmons said.

"This really gives people a chance to see what it is like to drink and drive," Rich said. "We've had people vouch for it."

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