Sioux Valley student Carissa Sudenga tries out the drunk driving simulator during her lunch hour Wednesday, as classmates watch. Sgt. Jon Pike of the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office will have the simulator at Sioux Valley through next Friday. Pike timed his visit with graduation season, when high school students are more often caught drinking and driving. / Sudenga looks through her windshield as she tests a drunk driving simulator at Sioux Valley School last week. Photos by Charis Prunty/Register
• Sioux Valley students test drunk driving simulator
BROOKINGS – She was just giving a friend a ride home one night, after a party where she’d been drinking, when she T-boned another car at a high rate of speed.
The next thing she saw was a team of nurses standing over her, preparing to push a tube down her throat.
At least, that’s what happened in an impaired driving simulation at Sioux Valley High School, hosted by Brookings County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jon Pike Wednesday. Pike said he hopes all SVHS students will experience the driving simulation sometime before the end of this week.
The video game-like simulator is supplied by Sioux Empire Safety Village and Vern Eide Motors. Its visit to Sioux Valley is sponsored by a grant from South Dakota Highway Safety.
While the administrator can choose between impaired or distracted driving (aka texting while driving and other vices), Pike has chosen impaired driving (drunk driving) because high school graduation season is quickly approaching.
“It’s more so during graduation when we see a lot of under-aged drinking,” Pike said. “The goal is to not have them go to those parties but they do, some, and I want them to be aware that if they do make those choices, to make sure they have a sober driver and to be aware of what could happen if they don’t have a sober driver.”
The simulation, which lasts 6-10 minutes per driver, puts students in a car resembling an arcade game, where they control the speed, steering wheel, turn signals and a few other things, like a real car.
Three screens in front of them simulate windows. They see stop signs, houses, other vehicles and more, hear a dog barking at the car, and always at some point see a police car.
But, like a drunk driving experience, their steering is affected by sluggish reflexes and vision.
Each short drive ends in a consequence: A crash or, if the student makes it to the end of their route without hitting something, a police car is ready to pull them over and administer a sobriety test.
After that comes a visit to the hospital, the police station, the courtroom and sometimes a prospective employer, who is looking for a clean driving record.
The scenario changes, based on what happened during the drive.
At the end of their lunch hour Wednesday, Sioux Valley students crowded around to watch classmates drive the simulator, some gasping when the car jerked to a stop as it hit a light pole or other car.
That’s good, Pike said – the more students who see the simulator in action, the better.
Students are welcomed to test the simulator during lunch or a study hall.
“We’re doing this as a preventative measure, so the kids are aware of what can happen if you get in an accident or you get arrested for a DUI,” he said.
“They have fun with it while they’re doing it, but it’s something that’s serious, too. I want them to realize the consequences.”
Pike has scheduled to take the simulator to Elkton and Deubrook schools this September.
He said Brookings Police hope to bring it to Brookings High School, and South Dakota State University campus security would like to bring it to campus.
Contact Charis Prunty at firstname.lastname@example.org.