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WEST CHESTER — In the gymnasium of West Chester Henderson High School on Tuesday, it looked as if students were trying – and failing – to pass a DUI checkpoint.
However, these students were neither in trouble nor actually under the influence, but instead, Henderson’s Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) club is hoping to make an impact on the underclassmen about the effects of drinking during the Health Fair.
With the use of Fatal Vision Alcohol Impairment Goggles, purchased after the club received a mini-grant from the West Chester Area Education Foundation, students were able to see what it would look like at different stages of drunkenness.
“We have six different levels, ranging from the lowest at .06 all the way up to .25,” said Candy Jakubowski, the Intervention Specialist at Henderson. “Our point with the kids is, though it’s fun to do this and see what it’s like, imagine being under the influence at that level and how dangerous that would be.”
Typically, one drink gives the person a .02 blood-alcohol level, so the first goggle is about three drinks in for someone.
Each goggle then goes up a level, which would be as if a person continued to drink, distorting perceptions and making ordinary activities more difficult.
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To help show the students the struggle, the goggles kit has them perform simple sobriety tests, such as walking heel-to-toe on a line laid on the floor.
In addition, the SADD club students tossed the participants a kickball to see how well they can catch it and then had them toss it back.
“Even just simple tasks as walking is dangerous (under the influence),” Jakubowski said. “Imagine yourself driving or even getting in the car with somebody who is like that. It’s just as dangerous.”
There are six different goggles with different levels:.06, the legal limit of .07 to .10, the national average of DUI offenders of .12 to .15, .17 to .20, binge drinking of .25-plus and the final one promoting double vision and extreme blurriness.
As the website promotes, the goggles provide “a realistic simulation of impairment” and “clearly demonstrates our susceptibility to impairment from alcohol.”
During the Health Fair, students could come over to the SADD club station, choose a goggle level or try several of them and then take the sobriety tests.
A lot of them struggle from the very beginning as they are unable to even walk a straight line with their arms waving wildly around to regain balance.
Though catching a ball didn’t seem to be quite as difficult, tossing it back was a different story as barely anyone was able to throw it back to the SADD club member without him or her having to chase it.
“A lot them are shocked, saying they had no idea it would be like this,” Jakubowski said. “I tell them, alcohol begins with the first drink.”
The members of the SADD club were the ones directly working with the younger participants, showing them each step to take with the line and the ball exercise.
Jakubowski believes having the SADD club students handling the demonstration helps to get the point of the dangerous alcohol across better than coming from adults and the faculty.
“All my SADD club kids are here working,” Jakubowski said. “They’re doing a good job showing them what to do. I like seeing our kids kind of being ambassadors of making good choices instead of us as adults telling them not to drink. It’s really cool.”