Oak Lawn Community High School students wobbled as they tried to walk on white lines in the school parking lots, and swerved and crashed as they attempted to navigate golf carts through a course of orange construction cones last Friday.
The students weren’t drunk, but they were wearing special goggle simulated a state of intoxication. The driving course and sobriety tests were part of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police’s DUI and Distracted Driving Prevention Program, which is in its 10th year. The program has been coming to Oak Lawn High since 2006, and more than 150 students participated in the program last Friday.
The program starts with a classroom portion in which youth services officers teach the students about the laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and then a real-life portion, where students participate in sobriety tests, drive a few laps around a driving course in a golf cart, and use a driving simulator provided by AAA Motor Club to experience the dangers of texting and driving.
Oak Lawn High student Rachael France said wearing the goggles while trying walk a straight line for the sobriety test was a weird experience.
“It made you really dizzy, you couldn’t see anything, and it threw off my balance,” France said. “Parents and the school emphasize it, but through this program you learn not to do it, because it shows you what will happen.”
The program helps students learn life lessons, said driver’s education teacher Brian Brandt.
“All distractions, whether it is texting, drinking and driving, or eating while driving, are a big problem in society,” Brandt said. “We need to teach students at a young age to make responsible decisions.”
Oak Lawn High student Breanna Markusic said the program was a good idea.
“I crashed into a stop sign with the simulator,” Markusic said. “It’s actually a good thing, because now you know when you drink and drive or text and drive, you can hurt people, crash into things, or even kill yourself.”
Omar Abdelrahman said he would never get behind the wheel after drinking, or text while driving after participating in the program.
“Overall, it was really interesting to try something like this,” Abdelraham said. “I wouldn’t recommend drinking and driving at all. You shouldn’t use the phone while driving. Lives can be lost.”
Driver’s education teacher John Robinson said the program was important to help students.
“It teaches them that they are not invincible,” Robinson said. “They can’t text and drive or drink and drive. When intoxicated, they can’t do simple tasks like put a key in a keyhole. When they’re driving the golf carts, they’re running over the cones. It shows them that they can’t do it.”