Randy Wyrick

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May 1, 2014
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Battle Mountain students learn lessons about distracted driving

EDWARDS — You can’t see the world clearly through beer goggles, and if you’re texting and driving you can’t see the world at all.

Those two facts of life were among the lessons driven home to Battle Mountain High School about distracted and drunk driving.

Hundreds of students strapped on beer goggles, did a roadside sobriety test, and drove a simulator to drive home the dangers of distracted driving, among other things.

Yes, they learned about distracted and drunk driving, but they also learned some life lessons.

“When you’re under the influence, everything becomes unstable and distorted,” said sophomore Bryan Saenz.

Citing another lesson, junior Stephanie Rivera said, “It’s scary. You can’t keep anything in balance.”

It was fun, because no one has ever paid much attention to some finger-wagging lecturing that this behavior or that behavior is a bad idea.

Students went from one fun station to another, and were entered in a raffle for some of the 88 prizes and eight grand prizes. The students handed in 2,000 raffle tickets.

If you’re Kim Greene with the Eagle County Safety Coalition and the Vail Valley Medical Center, then that’s 2,000 lessons learned.

“It’s about safety and prevention and bringing some safety education that will help them make safe choices,” Greene said.

Masters of distraction

In the driving simulator, most kids got about six blocks up the street before they were either pulled over by a police officer or had a wreck. Two or three stop signs into the simulation, after you’ve run over a cat and sent a text, a red minivan pulls out and pounds you in the passenger side, if you’re not paying attention, and you aren’t.

A helicopter flies in and hauls your passenger to a hospital where he’s listed in extremely stupid condition.

That’s because at about the second stop sign, right after you ran over the cat, he told you his seat belt was uncomfortable and took it off. He said in a whiny tone of voice, so you let him because you were tired of listening to him complain.

Bad idea.

Then they wander over to Distract-a-Match where they put on headphones and their tender young ears are assaulted with the sounds of tires screaming, children crying and all sorts of other stuff designed to distract your attention from the task at hand. You have to think because you can’t duplicate colors, and it’s tough to think because of this loud racket in your ears.

Most normal people are much slower with the headphones in their ears. A few kids, though, were faster the more distractions they had.

Wearing Beer Goggles

The best, though, was beer goggles, and they were nothing like the country song. Kids strapped on safety goggles that fogged their vision, not unlike being unable to focus when you have a snoot full.

They tried to take nine steps, heel to toe, like they would during a roadside sobriety test.

Commander Daric Harvey, Jessica Mayes and Kurt Mulson with the Vail Police Department, among others, were helping kids through it.

“It’s a good battery of tests to see how they’d perform under standard roadside conditions,” said Deputy Megan Richards, of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

She looked around the room as teenagers talked and laughed, crashed virtual cars and stumbled over straight lines.

“After going through these, hopefully they’ll make a different choice about drinking and distracted driving,” Richards said

It’s all about safety, said Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy. Deputies are seeing more issues with distracted driving, he said. Cell phones are a more prevalent problem.

Hoy asked groups of students, “How many of you have your driver’s license?” Several raised their hands.

When he asked, “How many have cell phones in the car?” they shrink back a little.

“They don’t just see it with kids. Even adults who have a phone in the car feel like they need to answer it right away. There’s almost no circumstance when that’s true,” Hoy said. “If you do have to take it, pull over, turn your flashers on and have your conversation.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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The VailDaily Updated May 1, 2014 10:27PM Published May 1, 2014 06:00PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.