DRUNKEN DRIVING SIMULATOR OPENS DIALOGUE FOR GREATER AWARENESS
AT CENTRAL MIDDLE SCHOOL
Galveston, Texas — Last week, when students at Central Middle School walked into their cafeteria for lunch, they were greeted with more than the traditional lunchroom line.
Stationed in the middle of the cafeteria was an impaired driving simulator, on loan from the University ofTexas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Center for Addiction Research. The machine offered students the opportunity to practice driving in real-world conditions, from varying degrees: free drive, impaired (drunken-driving) and distracted(texting while driving). The simulator combines a realistic car seat, seat belt and gas pedals with a large viewing monitor.
Since the line at the simulator remained constant throughout all lunch periods, not all students were able to participate. However, more than 100 students drove the simulator as dozens of their peers took turns as “backseat drivers” throughout the afternoon.
In fact, several faculty members got involved, and a few even tested out the simulator for themselves between lunch periods.
“That was so real, that my heart started pounding,” said Shalonda Robinson after crashing into another vehicle.
To promote Alcohol Awareness Month, the simulator was acquired by the Bay AreaCouncil On Drugs & Alcohol’s Galveston County Community Coalition. The coalition spent weeks planning this informative event, in collaboration with Galveston County Community Resource Coordination Group (CRCG) and UTMB’s Center for Addiction Research.
“The simulator was a hit,” Mary Beth Trevino, coalition coordinator said. “It gave students the opportunity to practice driving in a safe environment, while experiencing firsthand how distracted and impaired driving can harm lives.”
Since the simulator was a success, students were also interested in learning all they could about harmful substances.
The coalition and its partners provided free educational materials for the students to take home, in addition to answering student questions.
Neil Treble, a CRGC member and supervisor at DePelchin Children’s Center said one student even approached him to say he was thankful that the coalition and its partners were on campus.
“We left at the end with almost no informational pamphlets remaining,” Treble said. “Students were almost methodical in making sure they received a copy of each piece of information and most claimed that they were truly interested in learning from it. Hopefully, students will take this information and will continue to spread it to friends, family members, and other members of the community.”
Roughly 370 students took home tobacco and alcohol awareness pamphlets to share with their parents. In fact, many students spent part of their lunch hour reading the materials they picked up from each booth.
In addition to the simulator and handouts, student awards for a poster contest were announced. There were two divisions: print and digital posters. With more than 100 entries, the coalition welcomed the challenge.
“All of the students did a wonderful job on their posters,” Trevino said. “You could tell they really put a lot of thought and work into each one. It was a tough call picking just one winner from each group.”
“The students took pride in designing their projects and being able to creatively express themselves,” said Stephanie Wilcox, media arts teacher at CMS.
For those not visually inclined, the school also held a poetry and essay contest. Wilcox said one of her favorite poems was a personal affirmation that a student made to never drink alcohol because of his ambitions in life.
“I am very proud, of course, of my student's digital posters,” Wilcox said. “However, what struck me most was the student essays and poems. Not only were they candid and honest, they were inspiring.”
Wilcox and her students enjoyed the activities so much that they are currently working on a video contest with an alcohol awareness theme.
“I really enjoy working with (the coalition), and I hope to make the next event even better,” she said.
The coalition has already collaborated with La Marque High School and Texas A&M University at Galveston for similar events. Trevino said the coalition plans to work with CMS in the future, and is hopeful to bring the simulator and additional prevention resources to every school district in Galveston County. And Treble agrees.
Treble said, “I think this event should be a welcomed one at every school. The information gained from the event has the potential to save students’ lives.”
Those interested in the coalition hosting prevention activities in their area should email Galveston_ccp@bacoda.com to request additional information.
The Galveston County Community Coalition is one of four coalitions at the Bay Area Council On Drugs & Alcohol. If you are interested in learning more about your area community coalition, visit www.BACODA.org and click on the Coalitions tab, or dial 1-800-510-3111 and ask for the Coalitions Department.
BACODA is a non-profit 501(c)3 agency that has provided substance abuse prevention and intervention services since 1974. BACODA’s mission is to help individuals, families and communities stop alcohol/drug abuse and addiction. BACODA’s services extend to Southeast Harris, Galveston, Brazoria and Matagorda counties. BACODA is a United Way Agency. For more information, visit www.bacoda.org. Follow BACODA on Facebook (BACODA) and Twttier (@BACODA_Texas)!