Glendale High students encouraged to steer straight

Clutching the steering wheel, 16-year-old David Bazikian did his best Tuesday to navigate a golf cart around a small test track at Glendale High School. But the junior over-steered to the left, and then to the right, hitting a dozen orange construction cones before making his way back to the starting line.

His performance made him look like a remedial driver's ed student, but David was wearing a pair of vision-distorting goggles, part of a simulation meant to teach teens about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

"It was actually like double-vision," David said. "It was really weird. It was not what I expected."

The simulation was put on by Glendale Police officers Tim Lindner and Ed Malouf, and drew hundreds of onlookers to the school's central patio area. One by one, student participants were directed to drive around the course uninhibited. Then, the officers had them close their eyes, spins several times to induce dizziness, and don the DUI goggles.

They were placed back in the driver's seat of the golf cart and took another turn around the course.

"It is a hands-on experience, rather than somebody just standing there and lecturing about it," Lindner said. "I think when they actually get behind the wheel and they see what it is like, it gives them the idea that it is quite a bit different to drive sober than it is when they have been drinking."

Alcohol can give motorists a false sense of confidence in their ability to drive safely, Lindner said, and, combined with youth and inexperience, can be deadly.

Students wearing the DUI goggles display mannerisms similar to those of a drunk driver, including driving slowly and erratically, Lindner said. And they often forget to secure their seatbelts, he added.

"When you put the goggles on, it is almost as if you are trying to drive under water," said senior Sofia Rezvani, 17. "You can't see directly in front of you."

Calvin Blinkenberg, 17, said that the course looked completely different then second time around.

"There were way more cones than before, I think they switched some on me," he said. "Everything was a little iffy, cartoonish. It was a lot of fun, but a really good lesson not to [drink and drive]. I could not keep track of anything."

The simulation elicited lots of cheers and laughter as drivers mauled cone after cone. But more than one student said they worry about family and friends who drive under the influence of alcohol, and planned to volunteer to provide safe rides.

"Hopefully they are not drinking at this age, of course, but if they happen to drink we hope they have the sense to call somebody, call a taxi, have a friend who hasn't been drinking take them home," Lindner said. "If it affects one child the way we want it to we have done our job."

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