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Sobering reality: Simulation at North Oldham High School teaches teens the dangers of drunk driving

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By Tracy Harris

A North Oldham High School student is taking steps to keep her fellow students safe.

Senior Haley Howard is organizing Project Horsepower to raise student awareness about safe driving.

Howard said the death of a former NOHS student in July motivated her to develop the project.

John Powell died in a car crash on U.S. 42, just weeks after graduation. Two other students were severely injured in the crash.

Howard applied for a Project Ignition grant, a partnership between the National Youth Leadership Council and State Farm Insurance. The program utilizes student-driven service campaigns to address teen driver safety issues.

Howard received one of 25 $2,000 grants distributed to schools across the country.

She planned a number of hands-on activities for juniors and seniors to raise awareness about the dangers of not wearing seat belts, distracted driving, driving under the influence and speeding.

Howard coordinated with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to host a drunk and drugged driving simulation April 19.

The simulator allows students to drive a golf cart through a series of cones while wearing “drunk goggles.”

The goggles simulate the vision of someone with blood alcohol content around twice the legal limit for adults.

All the school’s 220 seniors were encouraged to attend the simulation, which took place from throughout much of the day.

Students with valid driver’s licenses were eligible to drive the cart, and many cones suffered the consequences.

Even Principal Lisa Jarrett flattened 10 cones while wearing the goggles.

“Each one of those represents a person,” said Rick Schad, education branch manager for the office of highway safety.

Schad also told students it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.02 or higher if they are under 21. 

The legal limit for drivers 21 and older is 0.08.

According to the KYTC, 5,862 alcohol- and drug-related crashes were reported in Kentucky — 154 were fatal.

And for drivers under the age of 21, 35 percent of fatal crashes involve alcohol.

While students often laugh during the demonstration, Howard hopes students realized how difficult and dangerous it is to drive impaired. She also put together a presentation for sophomores, juniors and seniors at the school March 30. 

Several students were selected early in the day for the “ghost out” portion of the presentation. 

Those students stayed out of class all day to mark the absence of students killed in car crashes. 

During the day, those students wrote their own obituaries. Those obituaries were read during the afternoon presentation, which also included guest speakers and a mock trial.

The trial showed students what really happens to an underage driving under the influence offender in the courtroom, Howard said. The trial also featured local attorneys and District Court Judge Jerry Crosby.

Guest speakers included Powell’s father, which Howard said was meaningful to students. Assistant Superintendent Dan Orman also spoke to students.

Howard worked with the Kentucky Office of highway Safety on the project, along with county EMS and police.

Howard hopes students will be more careful and aware as a result of the project.