Local News

Fair Booth Challenges People to Walk the Walk

Posted October 23, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— A drunk driving accident can change your life in an instant, but most impaired drivers do not think about the consequences until it is too late. A booth at the State Fair has an experiment set up to drive that point home in a way people will not soon forget.

One man went through the paces of a roadside sobriety test. He has not been drinking, but the goggles that he wore simulated a .08 alcohol level - the legal limit for intoxication.

"It causes them to see a curve in the line, curve to the right, so they have to compensate," field technician Brian Smith said. "It makes the body feel like it's falling."

The goggles cause him stumble like he is drunk, and make it impossible to walk a straight line. A second pair simulates a .16 alcohol level - twice the legal limit.

"I know it's a straight line, but it feels like you're going in a circle especially on the second impaired," simulator volunteer George Penny said. "It's really weird."

It is an eye-opener for volunteers, who discover they cannot even focus -- forget about putting one foot in front of the other.

"Some people think they can get out there and walk right through it, and they put these on and realize it's not as easy as they thought it was," Smith said.

A second experiment actually puts drivers behind the wheel and tests their reaction time. The simulator will not let drivers hit the brakes in time to avoid a wreck.

"This is one of the things where they can sit down in a safe environment and actually go through a scenario and see how much time it takes," North Carolina State Trooper Mark Davidson said.

Three tests simulate alcohol levels of zero, .05, and .08. A digital display shows the difference in reaction time.

Christian West discovered it took three times longer to stop with an alcohol level of .08.

"It was scary. It really hit home that I almost hit [a child]," simulator volunteer Christian West said.

The volunteers learned an important lesson about drunk driving without putting anyone's life at risk. Lawmen hope it is one they will remember the next time they have had too much to drink.

The "Fatal Vision" simulator is run by the Department of Health and Human Services. The drunk driving simulator belongs to the Highway Patrol. Both are on display at the State Fair through this weekend.