PennDOT aiming to prevent impaired driving on St. Patrick’s Day, by simulating impaired driving

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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is trying to prevent impaired driving this St. Patrick’s Day weekend. One way it’s doing that is with virtual reality simulators.

“We know it’s a big holiday for indulging in alcohol,” Tara Schane, the traffic safety coordinator for the Highway Safety Network, said. “So we want to have people stay safe and plan ahead.”

Ever wonder what it’s like to drive impaired? Students like Tom Stroud got to experience it first hand, without the alcohol or drugs.

“Simulators definitely are a little different from real life,” Stroud said. “But it definitely has a high-level experience of what it actually is in reality.”

PennDOT and the highway safety network set up virtual simulators at Lackawana College. They also used vision-impaired goggles to give students that almost-realistic feel.

“It gives a nice simulation, somebody can drive impaired and see the consequences without actually living the consequences,” Schane said.

The consequences should be of no surprise.

“I personally have typically seen an increase in crashes and certainly an increase in DUI arrests,” Trooper Keith Herbert of the Pennsylvania State Police, said.

In 2014, PennDOT said there were 19 DWI crashes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on St. Patrick’s Day. Since then, the number of  St Patrick’s Day DWI crashes has risen each year, to 28 last year. 

“I don’t know why people take the chance. They know that we’re out there, they know we have the training, they know we have the equipment,” Herbert said. “I think maybe some people just roll the dice and think they can get away with it.”

If you do get pulled over, police will perform sobriety tests such as a breathalyzer and measure your pupils. If you are considered dangerously impaired, or have a blood alcohol level of over .08, chances are you’ll get arrested and spend the night at a police station. There’s the chance you could even face a judge.

“There’s no excuse drive drunk in today’s age with Uber and all the additional services,” Herbert said. “Mass transit is very available even in rural areas like this.”

If you are caught driving while impaired, you could lose your license. You could even face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

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