Students Learn through Experience During Drunk Driving Simulation at Clarksville High School

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CLARKSVILLE, IN (May 11, 2022) – The start of May means that high school Seniors are getting ready to say goodbye to their teachers and prepare to begin their lives as adults.  It also means a lot of graduation celebrations.

“This is the week before prom and these seniors are about to graduate,” said Clarksville Police Lieutenant Nate Walls. “So they are getting ready to join the real world on their own.”

Along with the real world comes real consequences, and that was the message Clarksville Police tried to teach at a special event Wednesday at Clarksville High School.  The first part of the event involved students wearing special goggles that let them see what it is like to be impaired by drugs or alcohol.  Clarksville Police had several different types of goggles that mimic the vision of someone who is driving drunk or high on drugs like ecstasy, marijuana, and LSD.  Traditionally, students would wear the goggles and try and ride a tricycle.  This year it was a bit more challenging.

“We decided to try to use golf carts as opposed to just tricycles and things like that, so we set up a course with cones, put the goggles on them, have the police officers ride with them,” said Lt. Walls.  “It was a blast.”

The event was a chance for students to have a little fun, but also to learn an important lesson that their choices could have long-lasting consequences.  CHS Senior Elijah Dowell knows about those consequences all too well.  He was seriously injured in September 2020 when his car was hit by a drunk driver.

“I was in a wheelchair for about three months, and then I was on crutches for about two months,” said Dowell.  “Then I finally started to be able to walk again without them.”

Dowell was a star tennis player for the Clarksville Generals before the accident, playing as one of the top singles players for the school.  That all changed because of the accident.

“The pain was definitely not good,” said Dowell. “I also totaled my car, had hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and spent thousands of dollars for a new car.”

Dowell says he was happy to hear that Clarksville Police were putting on the drunk driving simulation event, because it is a good way to teach his fellow classmates about the dangers of impaired driving.

“I’m sure they understand it,but to the same degree as me, I don’t know if they understand it as much. They’ll definitely understand it once they do this.”

After students participated in the drunk driving simulation, they were treated to a lunch of pizza by the Clarksville Police Department, then taken to a second station.

“We’ve kicked it up a bit this year,” said Lt. Walls.  “We’re also doing a secondary session where we’re teaching kids about traffic stops and how to behave themselves on traffic stops, and what to expect.”

Walls said CPD decided to add the new session because many students these days have no idea what it is like to be pulled over by a police officer.  Walls says he believes it is a lesson parents may have taught their kids in the past, but that seems to have been lost or forgotten.

“A lot of times kids think there are things officers can and can’t do that are legal and not legal, and I want to be able to answer those questions so we can teach the kids what to expect on traffic stops.”

Walls says the hope is officers can provide the students with important information right before they leave school that they can carry with them, especially into this first summer of adulthood.  He says he also wants teens to know that police officers are normal people who also have good days and bad and may have more patience on some days compared to others.  Ultimately, though, the session is focused on keeping students safe during a traffic stop.

The lesson will continue later this week when Clarksville Police and the Clarksville Fire Department team up for a drunk driving accident reconstruction with live actors playing out the aftermath of a deadly crash.  Another important lesson to teach our new graduates about the consequences of their decisions.