STARLIGHT, IN (WAVE) – This time of year, around Thunder Over Louisville and prom season, impaired driving tragedies seem to happen all too often.
While police crack down on the roads, some officers partnered with local schools to cut down on intoxicated drivers.
This week, inside Huber’s Orchard and Winery in Starlight, Ind., a part of the farm is filled with officers from the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, teaching kids from schools around Clark County about the dangers of drunk and impaired driving in a hands-on course.
“Oh, it’s discombobulating,” said Amanda Andes, a senior at New Washington High School. “You can’t see straight.”
“Everything seems far away or really close and you can’t tell where anything is at all,” said Andrew Campbell, a senior at New Washington High School.
When these students are seeing double through alcohol or opioid goggles, it’s easy for officers to explain to young drivers why impaired driving can be so dangerous.
“It really makes you not want to do that because I ran over a crate and I’m pretty sure I hit a cone,” Campbell said.
The inability to walk a straight line or drive a clear path is something police often see out on the roads.
“So, there’s a lot of similarities that we’re showing between the kids and actual, real drunk-driving experience,” Clark County Sheriff’s Capt. Nicholas Mobley said.
The message comes through clearly and quickly to students, teachers said.
“When they first come, they think they’re just going to jump on the Kubota and drive through it without hitting anything,” said Lori Cross, a paraeducator with New Washington High School. “Trust me, I did it, I ran over everything. So, I think they get the hint that it’s not just fun and games when you get behind the wheel, because yeah, they might have run over some milk crates today but what if it was a person? What if it was their three friends in the car that didn’t make it out?”
“I feel like it’s hit home,” Mobley said. “The fact that they really know the experience and how it’s making them feel, how dangerous it can be. Where we’re out here doing 10, 15 miles an hour, how dangerous it would be behind the wheel of a real car doing 55 miles per hour?”
With prom approaching for many of the students, Lise Kruer, with Huber’s, said days like these are fun, but important, too. The popular winery often hosts proms for schools inside their Plantation Hall.
“And because we do make, sell and serve alcoholic beverages, we feel like we have a duty to our community,” she said. “So when we have the chance to reach out and do something like this, we’re more than happy to.”
"I wouldn't want to do that to myself or my prom date or anything like that," Campbell said.
“It’s good first-hand experience of what it feels like to do it, without really doing it,” Andes said.
Cross said this program, now in its third year, stays with students long after they head back to school. And that’s everyone’s hope during prom season and for years down the road.
“If it saves one life, it’s worth all of us coming out here for the day,” Cross said.
“It definitely is more than just a field trip,” Kruer said.