Simulated Impaired Driving Experience
Students simulate driving impaired April 7, 2011, at the Sibley-Ocheyedan Middle School.
Osceola County Deputy Seth Hoffman instructs a Sibley-Ocheyedan driver’s education student on operating the SIDNE impaired driving go-cart .
SIBLEY, Iowa — It’s an awful feeling.
The road curves ahead, and the driver turns the steering wheel to follow the path but the vehicle he or she is driving doesn’t react in
At the Sibley-Ocheyedan Middle School on Thursday night, all
that was harmed were a few orange cones, but the driver’s
education class got the message. Drunk driving is not only
against the law, but can kill. SIDNE was there to prove it to them.
SIDNE, short for Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience, gives sober people the chance to know what it’s like to drive drunk or under the influence of drugs. The electronic go-cart is specially made to simulate the delayed reaction drivers experience when attempting to drive under the influence.
The go-cart has two modes — normal and impaired. When driven in the impaired mode, the vehicle reacts with delayed steering, braking and acceleration.
“It delays the reaction of the driver, and basically makes them run over stuff,” said Osceola County Deputy Seth Hoffman, who, along with several other members of the department, was out in the parking lot of the middle school Thursday to facilitate the SIDNE demonstration.
In the parking lot, a “course” had been set up. From behind the wheel of the go-cart, students — and several adults who gave the cart a try — were to follow the orange painted line around a series of curves. Their path was also marked with orange traffic cones, many of which ended up scuffed and scarred by the end of the demonstration.
Drivers Education instructor Doyle Naig said he was contacted by State Farm Agent Dick Mataloni of Sibley about SIDNE, which was purchased through State Farm Insurance for the Iowa Crime Prevention Association (ICPA). With motor vehicle crashes being the No. 1 killer of American teenagers, State Farm and ICPA teamed up to help educate youths by bringing awareness to young drivers across the state of Iowa.
“(Mataloni) contacted me about it, and I thought it looked pretty cool,” Naig said. “It gets the kids out of the classroom, and they’ll hopefully gain some knowledge about being out of control when they are behind the wheel of a vehicle.”
Another benefit of the experience, Naig said, was giving the teens more exposure to local law enforcement.
“We want the kids to know that these guys aren’t out to get them,” he explained.
The sheriff’s office ran the show, helping each student climb in and buckle up. With one deputy operating the remote, others stood around the outside of the course, offering encouragement, suggestions and the occasional teasing comment as cones got squished. Most of the deputies and the sheriff had already given SIDNE a test drive, as had Naig and Mataloni, and knew that the experience, while humorous, was also about learning something valuable.
With a class of 50 students ages 14 to 15, this means 50 new drivers will be out on the road in the near future. Making them aware of the consequences of impaired driving before they’ve even received a license is proactive, Osceola County Sheriff Doug Weber said.
“This can be a lot of fun,” Hoffman told the students before they jumped behind the wheel of the go-cart. “But you also need to take it seriously. If you run over a cone, think of it as a person. If you lose control of a vehicle, you could go in a ditch or wreck your car. But you could also hurt or kill yourself or another person.”
The students eagerly stepped forward to try SIDNE. With a deputy holding the remote that controlled which mode the go-cart was in, the student driver would follow the orange path in “normal.” Then he or she would be told, “Go around again.” But this time, the “impaired” switch had been flipped.
While fellow students on the sidelines laughed, the “impaired” driver would turn the steering wheel frantically, often overcorrecting when the vehicle didn’t respond as it had the first time around the course. As a result, orange cones crunched under tires and were dragged across the lot. While their antics, gestures and faces showed amusement, the students also got the underlying message — being out of control of a vehicle is scary and can damage more than little orange cones.