Morgan Township High School senior Justine McGinley drives a golf cart wearing goggles that simulate the vision of a drunk driver. The Porter County Sheriff's Department presented a program on drunk driving at the school on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 23, 2014 3:34PM
VALPARAISO — Dale Marshall, a Kouts police sergeant and school resource officer for the East Porter schools, was clearly concerned.
An orange safety cone dragged under the golf cart he was riding in, driven by Morgan Township High School senior Kyleah Rocchi.
“The way you’re driving, I don’t know if we’re in the middle of the road,” he said, as Rocchi tried unsuccessfully to navigate an obstacle course. “Whoa! Where are you going?”
Rocchi, 18, joined more than 100 other juniors and seniors on Wednesday at the school for a lesson in drunken driving, aided by “fatal vision goggles,” which impair vision. Students also tried shooting baskets while wearing the goggles.
The driving, Rocchi said, was a lot harder than it looked like it would be. The goggles made it look like there were nine cones when there was only one, and shooting baskets wasn’t any easier.
With the cones representing children, the lesson, offered through the Porter County Drunk Driving Task Force, was a stark one.
“I think everybody knows by this point that if you drink and drive, something like that could happen. So if you do, it’s your choice,” Rocchi said.
The timing of the demonstration was particularly important, said Dolores Mueller, the school’s principal, because prom is on Saturday and graduation is soon.
Having the students wear the goggles and watch a video titled “Every 15 Minutes,” about how someone is killed by a drunken driver every 15 minutes, combined to make the exercise a “thoughtful activity,” Mueller said. “Seniors have this feeling of freedom, and that’s when they’re most vulnerable to poor decisions.”
Senior Alexis Zaborowski, 18, said she hit or ran over at least 11 cones “so that would have been 11 people I killed.” The goggles were weird and made it hard to tell what was real, she said.
“It definitely makes me want to encourage people not to drink and drive and not to drink and drive myself,” she said.
Junior Benjamin Baldwin, 17, said the goggles distorted everything, making it hard to navigate the obstacle course even going only a few miles per hour.
“If you’re going down the road at 60 or 70 mph, there’s no way you could handle it with that kind of vision,” he said.