SPHS students experience #8216;Fatal Vision#8217;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

SOUTH POINT — Rob Van Keuren knows that getting through to high school juniors and seniors about the dangers of drunk driving is difficult.

But, the school resource officer with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said his anti-drunk-driving message is still a vital part of his job and a part that he feels strongly about.

Van Keuren brought his “Fatal Vision” program to South Point High School Wednesday.

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The centerpiece of the program is three pairs of goggles that students put on to simulate what it’s like to function under different levels of intoxication. One pair simulates two beers, the other five beers and the last eight to 10 beers.

Student volunteers are then asked to perform tasks like walking a straight line, balance a measuring stick and shoot a free throw wearing the goggles.

Some of the teens could do relatively well wearing the low-alcohol simulated goggles, but the other goggles were a totally different story. They struggled to perform even the most basic tasks and some said they never realized alcohol could impair their vision so much.

“This is just the vision part of it,” Van Keuren said to the group that gathered in the gym. “When you’ve been drinking, many other factors come into play — your reaction time, motor skills and comprehension are also affected.”

Eddie Scott, assistant school principal, was even a part of the program, performing quite poorly shooting free throws while wearing his five-beer goggles.

“We hope that this draws more attention to the dangers of drinking and driving,” Scott said. “The problem is that a lot of kids just live for the moment and they live in the moment.”

He said the program is especially important at prom and graduation time, when the temptation to drink, and many times drive, is sometimes at its highest.

Van Keuren said he travels to each school in the county presenting his program. He tries to make it fun, Van Keuren said, but he also want the students to realize the deadly consequences of drinking and driving.

“When several people’s lives are on the line, it is a very serious thing,” he said.

The statistics are pretty sobering and should be enough to make teens think twice about driving drunk or even after they’ve only had a few drinks, Van Keuren said.

Most 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds who die in alcohol-related crashes are involved in low-alcohol crashes, meaning the driver has only had a few beers, he said.