NEWBERRY — Nearly 1.5 million people are arrested each year for driving under the influence, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol. That’s an arrest of one person for every 130 licensed drivers in the United States.
To give Newberry County students a crash course in how being intoxicated impairs driving ability, Sergeant Allison Moore and the Newberry City Police Department recently began their Prom Promise campaign at local high schools.
“The campaign is a way to encourage high school seniors not to use drugs or drink on the night of prom,” Moore said.
With the campaign, the department sets up a course where students put on fatal vision goggles and drive a golf cart through traffic-coned areas to show the effects of drinking and driving.
Moore said some schools they visit have pledge cards that are given to students where they can pledge not to drink and drive on prom night.
Certain schools bring in speakers to talk with the seniors. The speakers come from a family that has been a victim of a DUI wreck and how that impacted their life.
“We hope that by teaching them, it will show them not to do that,” Moore said.
City police officers set up a course at Newberry Academy on April 10. Brian Fitzgerald, head of the school, said he believed it was a good lesson for students and a good way to catch their attention on the topic.
“I really appreciate our local authorities for coming out to do this for us,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d like to think we wouldn’t have to deal with stuff like this, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Newberry Academy’s prom was this past weekend at Steven W’s in downtown Newberry.
Senior Ryan Smith was the first to try the fatal vision goggles and drive the golf cart, first driving normally, then putting on the goggles, which simulate a .12-.15 blood alcohol level.
Smith said it was hard for him to complete the course without knocking over traffic cones, and that in a real car he felt he would definitely have gotten into an accident. He said that was eye opening.
“You can’t tell what’s right in front of you, or what’s right next to you,” Smith said.
Moore said their next visit will be April 30 to Newberry High School where they will hold a reenactment of a wreck caused by drinking and driving. EMS will go through the process of responding to such a wreck to show students just how dangerous driving is when you are under the influence.
“It puts it in perspective for them to see it is real, not a trick,” Moore said.