Driving a drunk car
Spc. Justin McCalips gets a sober perspective on drunk driving behind the wheel of a driving simulator that mimics the effect of alcohol on a driver during the Save a Life Tour in Hohenfels, recently.

HOHENFELS, Germany -- The statistics are staggering. In 2010 in America, 10,228 people died in drunk driving crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's one every 52 minutes. 345,000 were injured. That same year, the FBI's "Crime in the United States" reported nearly 1.5 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence. There were nearly 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving every single day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Save a Life Tour, billed on its website as "the shock-jocks of anti-drunk driving" are hoping to change these trends through their hard-hitting presentation on the consequences of driving under the influence. With massive tour posters, high intensity videos, and a multi-million dollar driving simulator, the tour seeks to help participants make better choices when it comes to drinking responsibly.

The presentation began with a graphic video, bringing the results of drunk driving to grisly life. Perhaps even more disturbing than images of twisted metal and bloodied bodies was the horror the survivors, the parents, spouses, even the drunk drivers themselves had to face regarding the loss and devastation their choice had caused.

"Most people say, "that won't happen to me,'" said SALT program manager Andrew Tipton. Yet studies estimate that one in every three Americans will be involved in a drinking and driving related crash during their lifetime.

"If you hurt or kill somebody behind the wheel, that's involuntary manslaughter" Tipton said. "That's 15 to 30 years in a Federal prison."

Even without a crash, the penalties for DUI are stiff, and the far-reaching consequences can include career, financial and family turmoil.

"It doesn't just affect you," Tipton pointed out. "It affects everyone you work with, your unit, your base. It's not worth it."

"When you signed up for the military … when it comes down to it, what you signed up for was to protect people. Every day you risk your life to protect others," said Tipton. "If you drink and drive, that's hypocritical. Everything you signed up to protect, your throwing it away."

Tipton has personal reasons for wanting to get his message across. His father was involved in a devastating drunk driving crash, and he lost two close friends when they chose to get behind the wheel drunk.

"I had to go to two funerals in the same week because of drinking and driving," he said.

Videos and briefs are one thing, but SALT drives its point home even more by allowing participants to operate a state of the art driving simulator that mimics the effects of alcohol on a driver, providing the participant with a sober view of how a few drinks can dramatically inhibit their ability to operate a vehicle.

"When you drink alcohol, no matter your age, height or anything, your body gives you a delayed reaction. What we do is we put that in the steering wheel, the gas pedal and the brake pedal. So basically, you're sober and you're driving a drunk car," Tipton explained.

Spc. Justin McCalips, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, didn't take long to crash his virtual vehicle into the side of a building.

"It was very hard," he said. "Your reaction time was terrible after you'd been drinking a little bit. You think you're acting fast but you're not. I learned a lot."

The simulator even includes various weather patterns, icy roads or nighttime traffic, with each drive being unique. The level of impairment gradually increases to give drivers a real sense of driving under the influence.

"It helps you see what might actually happen if you were in a real car," said Spc. Rende Johnson, 1-4th Inf. Regt. "I don't want to see anybody get hurt, I don't want to hurt myself or anyone else in the vehicle with me. And if driving is this hard playing a virtual game, imagine if I was really in a car drunk. I won't do it."

Page last updated Wed September 26th, 2012 at 00:00