By Staff Sgt. Joel Pena June 19, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The national Save a Life Tour (SALT) alcohol-awareness program visited Fort Drum on June 9-13 and educated thousands of Soldiers at Magrath Sports Complex on the dangers of drunk and distracted driving.
SALT is the nation's most advanced alcohol awareness and distracted program. The high-impact tour used interactive machines to give Soldiers a firsthand experience on the devastating effects of drunk or distracted driving.
"The distracter simulator shows what a person does when they create an unnecessary distraction, like texting and driving," said Christopher Rich, SALT road manager. "The three-minute simulation incorporates an iPhone, which drivers hold in their hand to answer text messages while driving. If the driver doesn't crash before the three minutes, which most of them do, the machine shows how they struggle to maintain proper speed limits or stay in their proper lane."
Soldiers lined up at the drinking and driving simulator to gain a better understanding while being sober of what a drunk driver experiences.
"The gas pedal, brake pedal and steering wheel all have delay reaction incorporated into them," Rich said. "What that does is incorporate tunnel vision. It forces the driver to look straight ahead while being distracted to speed limit, maintaining speed limits and looking left and right for aggressive drivers, just as a drunk driver would.
"The machine demonstrates why it is illegal to drink or drive under the influence of alcohol or any other drug."
Have you ever consumed alcohol and then driven a motor vehicle? Have you ever ridden in a vehicle with a driver who had been drinking alcohol? Would you take the keys from a friend who wanted to drive after drinking alcohol?
These were just a few of the questions Soldiers had to answer in a pre-session survey before receiving the SALT presentation.
"The traditional thinking around alcohol is that it impairs our ability to make good choices," said Clay Martin, SALT crew member. "I won't argue with that. There was a study done a couple of years ago by National Public Radio that showed that the reason people don't make good decisions when they are drunk is because alcohol removes their ability to care about the consequences."
To drive home the message about the importance of consequences, Martin played a 25-minute realistic video of actual DWI accidents and emergency room scenes. Gasps came from those in attendance as each graphic scene struck an emotional chord with Soldiers.
"The video was breathtaking and sometimes disturbing," said Pfc. Karl Baker. "The drinking and driving simulator felt pretty accurate to me. Although I've never really driven drunk, I imagined that's how it would be. It got harder and harder to drive as the course progressed."
At the end of the presentation, Rich commented that he measured success by the feedback they got from Soldiers who went through the presentation and not just the survey they take at the end.
"Success is when the Soldiers tell us about how the SALT tour and its message have impacted their life, and how they will share this information with friends and families," Rich said. "We listen, because we can change someone's life. It's better than the alternative -- not listening and having someone getting hurt while drinking and driving, or worse, taking someone's life."
Another person who cared deeply about this message was Tracy Hitchcock, Fort Drum's Army Substance Abuse Program coordinator.
"This program really focuses on the consequences of our choices beyond getting a DWI," she said. "We care about all our Soldiers, and we hope to reduce the negative impact of substance abuse by providing quality prevention education services such as this."