By Debbie Sheehan, Fort Monmouth Public Affairs OfficeJune 15, 2009
FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. - It was a horror show of a different kind; no vampires or goblins, but plenty of gore and destruction, playing out in front of you on three big screens.
To the left there was the story of a college co-ed who drank herself to death after a long day of binge drinking at a football game and the parties afterward.
At the time of her death, Sam Spade's blood alcohol level was 4.3. In most states in the nation, drivers are considered drunk if they have a blood alcohol level of .10.
Her parents said she was not a drinker, but had downed more vanilla vodka over the course of a day than many drink in a lifetime.
To the right were the anguished parents of a teenager who was in a coma after being hit by a drunk driver; his body mangled, his mind gone.
In the middle was a large screen showing how someone, whose perception and reflexes were deliberately impaired by a "drunk driving simulator," was trying to navigate the road.
Welcome to the "Save A Life Tour", a non-profit presentation with a million dollar drunk driving simulator that tours colleges and military bases throughout the country to spread the message that drunk driving kills innocent victims and ruins lives.
"It can change your life, forever," said presenter Jeremiah Newson.
Members of the Fort Monmouth community stood in line at Gibbs Hall to take a spin in the simulator. Debbie Menninger of the Post Chapel became a tiger behind the wheel.
"Prior to experiencing it for myself, it looked like it would be an easy task. 'No problem, I thought.' I was so wrong. It was much more difficult when sitting behind the wheel. I paid far less attention to my mirrors. I tended to look straight ahead as though I had tunnel vision," she said. Menninger ended up running up the curb while a police cruiser followed her.
John Occhipinti, director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security for the Garrison, said a ride in the simulator made him glad he isn't a hard-core drinker.
He said he felt lethargic and impaired. "It was very realistic and made me feel out of control," he said.
A chilling touch was the display of an empty coffin, awaiting the next victim of a drunk driver.
"When you are drinking, you are not paying attention. You go out and get in your car and at some point, your last thought may be, 'Holy smokes, I'm drunk!" said Nelson.