Students get a look at impaired driver's view

When it comes to cases of underage drinking and substance abuse, the 2001-02 school year has been a good one at Langley Middle School.

The Langley Police Department hasn't had much contact with students using or in possession of alcohol and drugs, and officers and the department's chief want it to stay that way.

This week, Officer Ryan Raulerson used technology to give students at the school a chance to decide for themselves on the issue of whether or not to drink. In eighth-grade health classes Thursday and Friday, he rattled off facts and figures about the damage done by drunk driving and about how widely available alcohol is to students even at the middle school level.

While the students seemed to find it interesting that 16 billion miles are driven in the United States each year by drunks, and that there are approximately 2.6 million alcohol-related accidents each year in this country, Raulerson didn't have everybody's attention until he pulled out the goggles -- the Fatal Vision goggles.

Looking like high-tech versions of the eyewear anyone would use to do the weed eating at home, the goggles contain prismatic lenses that distort vision and make it nearly impossible to walk a straight line. Using a piece of striped tape on the floor, Raulerson put all the students in the class through an abbreviated drunk driving test. It was a rare kid who could walk without a wobble or catch a wad of paper thrown in his or her direction.

"The light was all curvy and weird," said student Melissa Mydynski after failing miserably at the test.

"It was kinda like you were cross eyed," was eighth-grader John Plantz' reaction.

Raulerson said the test with the goggles is an effective tool, even though they don't simulate every aspect of being drunk. It is an experience the kids will remember if they are ever in a situation that might tempt them to drive drunk.

Langley Police Chief Bob Herzberg said he believes education on the issue of substance abuse works. Department contacts with kids using alcohol and drugs are down in recent years, he said.

"This current year is about the quietest we've seen," Herzberg said.

The police department purchased two pairs of the goggles -- which run $400 each -- with grant funding. Raulerson said his talk at the school grew out of a sixth-grade project undertaken by a student at Langley Middle School two years ago.

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