Jordan Tou, 16, who will be a Masuk High School junior next fall, was completely sober while seated behind the wheel of a golf cart in the school parking lot Tuesday afternoon, but she may as well have been plastered. Special goggles she wore simulated the blurry, double vision of someone over twice the legal blood alcohol limit.
Patrick Petrie, a teacher at the Masuk Alternative School and owner of Driver Education Station, rode shotgun as Tou navigated a course of orange cones. Tou somehow managed to get through the course, until the end when she backed over a cone, while parking.
“I couldn’t tell if a cone was in front of me or not, because it throws off your vision,” she said of the goggles.
Driver Education Station teamed up with School Resource Officer Brooke Larsen and A.D.A.M. (Alcohol and Drug Awareness of Monroe) for an impaired driving education program.
The program was made possible by the Monroe Board of Education and donations from Spadaccini Funeral Home, the Masuk Parent Teacher Club and A.D.A.M.
Goggles students could choose from included Twilight Vision with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 to 0.25. The legal limit in Connecticut is 0.08.
Others were the Totally Wasted Goggles (BAC of 0.26 to 0.35), Drug Impairment Goggle (simulating the effects of illegal drugs or overdosing on prescription medication), Snooze Goggle (simulating extreme fatigue) and the Red-Eyed Goggle (fatigue in low light conditions).
The Cannabis Goggle impairs concentration and coordination, slows reaction time and results in the feeling of nausea. The Ecstasy/Molly/LSD Goggle distorts the perception of size and shape of objects and gives a distorted perception of color.
Alcohol Impaired Goggles range in different BAC levels of 0.07 to 0.20.
“I think it’s important to have the marijuana ones,” Larsen said, “because it’s so prevalent among teenagers. They may not think it’s as bad as alcohol. You’re still impaired. It’s better not to be under the influence of anything when you’re driving a motor vehicle.”
Stranded at night
In another section of the parking lot at Masuk Tuesday, Petrie and Mark Necio, a retired Shelton High School teacher who is an instructor at Driver Education Station, taught a group of teenagers how to change a tire, fill tires with air and to use jumper cables to charge a dead battery.
Alfredo Mazza, a Shelton High School teacher and a driving instructor, assisted them.
“It’s a good idea to practice in a controlled environment in a place that is flat, and to have somebody who knows what they’re doing,” Necio said of learning to change a tire. “You’re trying to simulate being stranded at night.”
Necio demonstrated how to remove lug nuts, while replacing a flat tire with a donut.
Petrie shared the tragic story of a 17-year-old student of his who was killed when his car slipped off a jack when he tried to change a tire on a hill in Monroe years ago.
He suggested using a rock or a two-by-four as a wedge under a tire to prevent your car from moving while using a jack.
“Having a little bit of knowledge can save you in some tough spots,” Petrie said, while reminding students to make sure the lug nuts are tight when they’re done.
One young woman used a portable air pump to fill a tire.
Petrie showed the group an easy way to learn what the right pounds per square inch (psi) should be. He opened the driver’s side door of his school’s Ford Focus and found a sticker that showed the recommended psi is 34.
The teenager then used the portable air pump until the digital gauge rose to 34.
Next, Petrie showed the group how to use jumper cables, opening the hood of the Ford Focus and of a Chevrolet pickup truck next to it.
On the battery inside the Ford, Petrie explained how the black part is the grounding wire and the red is the power.
One of the students correctly guessed to attach the yellow clip of the jumper cable to the grounding wire before affixing the red clip to the red wire.
When using a smaller car to charge one with a larger battery, Petrie said to step on the gas to send more power.
An expanding program
Petrie said his driving school, A.D.A.M. and Larsen offer the impaired driving education program to Masuk’s alternative school and to gym classes during the school year.
“We’re going to try to do this at St. Joes and Shelton High School next year,” Petrie said of the Driver Education Station. “We’re a regional program and have a partnership with A.D.A.M., the Monroe PTC, Masuk, St. Joes and Shelton High School.”
During Tuesday’s event at Masuk, A.D.A.M. set up a table in the parking lot with literature on its campaign to prevent young people from vaping.
Tammy Julian, an A.D.A.M. volunteer, said the anti-vaping program ties into impaired driving, because vapes could be used to smoke marijuana.
“I think we should do it again,” she said of offering more sessions of the impaired driving education program after the school year.
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