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'Prevention tool' gives UCCS students a feel for impaired driving

November 3, 2016 Updated: November 3, 2016 at 9:19 pm
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The Simulated Impaired Driving Experience, a vehicle that resembles a go-cart, allows users to feel what it's like to drive drunk by delaying a driver's reactions, such as stopping or turning.

When a handful of students and school officials got behind the wheel of a drunken-driving simulator at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on Tuesday, the only fatalities were tiny orange traffic cones.

But statistics from local law enforcement illustrate a much more gruesome reality.

Of the city's 30 traffic fatalities in 2015, 14 lives were lost in crashes involving someone driving under the influence of alcohol, according to Colorado Springs Police Department. Ten of the 19 traffic deaths that occurred through September of this year are attributed to alcohol-related crashes, although the numbers may change as toxicology reports are completed, said Molly Miles, an analytical supervisor for the department.

The Simulated Impaired Driving Experience, a vehicle that resembles a go-cart, allows users to feel what it's like to drive drunk by delaying a driver's reactions, such as stopping or turning.

"This is a prevention tool," said Maile Gray, executive director of traffic safety nonprofit Drive Smart Colorado. "We hope that the message is people will choose not to engage in a behavior that would be dangerous for themselves or for others on the road around them."

Drive Smart purchased the machine from the university and refurbished it using a $20,000 grant from the Allstate Foundation. Students had the opportunity Thursday morning to take it for a spin outside of the campus' Kraemer Family Library.

"It was really hard to control," said Parker Bosworth, a freshman studying mechanical engineering.

The vehicle, which appears on campus a few times each semester, has been a part of university safety programs since 2004. It's also used at high schools in Colorado Springs, Peyton, Calhan and Woodland Park as part of Drive Smart's High School Traffic Safety Challenge, said Sgt. Grant Lockwood of UCCS Public Safety.

"It's interesting to see their (students') different reactions," Lockwood said. "A lot of times they don't really understand what might happen if they've been drinking and driving and get involved in an accident that hurts someone else. It's very impactful."

When Julie Wermers, a local Allstate Insurance agent, tried out the simulator, she knocked down two of the cones.

"I've experienced firsthand what can happen from distracted driving as a local insurance agent," Wermers said after her ride. "We're trying to bring awareness to a community to make sure we do what we can to make everybody a safer driver."

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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