SALT aims to save lives on Fort Rucker
April 18, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 19, 2012) -- Drinking and driving kills.
That's the short but to-the-point message the Save A Life Tour tried to get across as it kicked off April 16 at the post theater to bring awareness to the Soldiers, civilians and Family members of Fort Rucker about the dangers of drinking and driving, said Cejay Rich, SALT manager and public speaker.
The program is based on drinking and driving, and somewhat texting and driving, and the hazards that they both pose to motorists, Rich said.
"We're trying to get heightened awareness for these Soldiers about the effects of alcohol," he said. "We lose more Soldiers from drinking and driving than we do from fighting in the wars. It's very important for the [Soldiers] to know that because most of them don't."
SALT began with a presentation by Rich that showcased actual pictures of alcohol-related accidents that were shown on four giant screens on either side of him while he shared his own personal account as to why he got involved in helping spread awareness.
He spoke of his sister and the alcohol-related accident that ended her life 13 years ago when she got into a car with a friend that had been drinking at his own going away party.
"He decided to get into a car with my little sister and two of his brothers and flipped the car," he said. His sister was killed instantly.
Rich also lost his mother in an alcohol-related accident two years before he lost his sister. She got on the back of a motorcycle with his father after he had been drinking and ran a red light that caused the accident that ended his mothers life.
"I dropped out of college to do this and the reason why I'm here today is because of it," said Rich. "I hope people leave [here] today and they realize and grab hold of [the affects] and see how dangerous drinking and driving is.
"We're showing videos here today of some of the aftermath of drinking and driving because you have to show the physicality of it," he said. "You can't just tell people it's dangerous, you've got to show them."
SALT also featured a state-of-the-art simulator that incorporates alcohol use with delayed reactions in the gas pedal, brake pedal and steering wheel to simulate driving while under the influence of alcohol, said Rich.
"It forces people to overcompensate for the wheel and it makes people stop harder because it's not reacting they way they want it to react," he said, adding that the conditions cause people to wreck in the simulation because people aren't used to driving under those circumstance -- much like when they are consuming alcohol.
People attending the event were allowed to ride in the simulator to see if they could manage driving while under the simulated conditions. Sgt. 1st Class Joel Kosman, who attended the event and drove the simulator, said that driving the simulator was harder than it looked and nothing like normal driving.
"It seemed like it was ok at the beginning, but it slowly [kept getting worse]," he said. "You try to overcompensate and it was just not working."
Kosman was issued a mock citation for driving under the influence by Rich as a keepsake and reminder of the potential dangers that drinking and driving can cause.
Earl Q. Rogers, Army veteran, was also in attendance at the event and said he enjoyed the presentation but it brought back memories of Army friends that he had lost to the effects of drinking and driving.
"It brought back memories … of when I didn't get in a car with my buddies to drive down to Mexico," he said. "Later I found out that they hit a school bus head on. I still have the program from the funeral of my friends.
"I know a lot of people really don't care, but some of us do because it's real when you have to identify a relative or friend's body," said Rogers. "Before it becomes real [like that], a lot of people don't even think about it. [SALT] is a good program and people should take it seriously."
SALT has garnered positive feedback from its audiences, which include colleges, high schools, and military bases, said Rich. There is a kiosk set up at the event with a survey machine that allows people to put in information about how the tour has affected them.
"We've gotten emails from people saying that they went to a party one day and picked their friends up so they wouldn't drink and drive," he said. "You can only do so much to try and [get] people's attention -- the rest is up to them because people are going to do what they want to do. You can only hope that they will take something away from this."