Friday, October 27, 2000

Car shows teens what DUI is like

Program is in jeopardy

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Teens have heard that drunken driving is risky, but Thursday they got a chance to see and feel how dangerous it can be — without drinking any alcohol.

        About 240 teens from 12 Butler County high schools experienced “the car that drives drunk — to make sure you never do.”

        The Dodge Neon, equipped with an on-board computer, changes the car's braking and steering to simulate the effects of drunken driving.

        “I couldn't turn the steering wheel at all,” said 17-year-old Amber Tweed, a Ross High School student. “It was like trying to move a big boulder.”

        Amber drove the Drunk Driving Simulator along a curvy course marked with orange safety cones and pop-up silhouettes of pedestrians.

        “It really shows you what it's like instead of someone just telling you,” Amber said.

        Drivers take one lap “sober,” then a second lap with the car programmed to simulate the effects of alcohol.

        Schoolmate Maria DiCeglie, 17, used a video camera to record her experience as Ms. Tweed's back-seat passenger.

        “For people who are just passengers, it is really scary,” she said. “Every time the car hit a cone or anything, I could feel it. It really makes you realize you're putting your life in this other person's hands.”

        About a dozen police and safety groups split the $4,000 cost of the daylong program, which was held in the rear of the Hamilton Meadows Plaza in the 1400 block of Main Street.

        The simulator program, sponsored by DaimlerChrysler since 1988, has made more than 3,250 public appearances. Thursday's could be its last in Ohio, given that DaimlerChrysler plans to discontinue its sponsorship of the simulator after this year, said Jerry Dolhancryk, one of the program's coordinators.

        “This program does seem to get through to these kids,” he said. “In order for someone to really learn something, you have to teach them in a way that has impact - and I bet that every kid here will remember this for the rest of their lives.”


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