GCC Students Experience Influence Of Drunk Driving Firsthand
PR 057–March 9, 2012 Department of Public Relations and Marketing
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Student at a drunk driving simulator test
Robert Canning, 18, of West Deptford, engages in a drunk driving simulation. He says the delayed reactions and hesitations he experienced were “very realistic.”
Coffin display "for next drunk driving victim"

Deptford Twp.–Students at Gloucester County College had the chance to see what it’s like to have a few drinks and get behind the wheel—experiencing the dangerous effects of driving while intoxicated—with the virtual-reality Safe a Life campus tour campaign.

The GCC Student Assistance Center invited members of the Southwest Council and Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office to join the event designed to demonstrate the physical changes the human body sustains when drinking. It also raised awareness to the growing social problem of prescription drug abuse.

Southwest Council Prevention Specialist Ryan F. Pratta and Gloucester County Department of Human Services Narcotics Educator Frank P. Smith guided students through activities. Smith shared his struggles as a recovering methamphetamine addict—an offshoot of alcohol abuse—that eventually lead to an accident resulting in brain damage and becoming wheelchair-bound.

“My addiction started with alcohol in sixth grade since all of my friends were doing it,” said Smith. “Kids don’t understand, you can’t do drugs just once and stop. What started as an occasional weekend activity became far more serious, moving from beer to hard liquor, then to marijuana and meth. You’ll always want more and more.”

Participating students were asked to wear goggles that distorted their vision beyond the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08, then either take the wheel in an arcade-like set-up or drive a remote-controlled car through an obstacle course. No student received passing marks. A coffin with the epitaph “reserved for the next drunk driving victim” was arranged at the event’s entrance.

Smith went on to tell students that he became increasingly depressed and attempted suicide. It was then his brother suggested he obtain his GED and strive for college. Following a stint in rehab and four months of physical therapy, he enrolled at Gloucester County College where he was elected president of the student body and graduated in 1990. Smith said he started taking his life a day at a time to control his addiction.

 “It really is a travesty with how many young people drink and drive when they know the consequences,” said Kelby Peace Bullock, 18, of Mullica Hill. “Everything they tell you is true, call someone to pick you up. It’s surprising how difficult it is to get the key out of your pocket after you’ve been drinking let alone to think you can drive.”

Pratta explained to students how the ever-changing drug culture has evolved although the effects have not. He indicated that college-aged individuals are the main risk group since many feel pressure to balance work and class, often looking to Adderall or Ritalin as study aids.

The tour’s message and activities resonated with students.

“I got into a fatal accident,” said Andrew Baptiste, 20, of Sewell. “I’ve always had the feeling that when I’ve had a drink, like a glass of wine on Thanksgiving, that I can’t do this. I can’t drive. Today’s exercises reaffirmed my thoughts.”

“I care about my life and the lives of others around me,” said Matt Runquist, 20, of Glassboro as he watched over Baptiste’s shoulder. “I’d never even consider doing it.”

 Gloucester County College’s 250-acre campus is located on Tanyard Road off exit 56 of Route 55.