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Tying one on: Goggles simulate being impaired

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A very sobering experience.

That was the consensus among the 150 people who tried the intoxication simulator set up at the OPP booth in the Farm Progress Building during the Emo fair last weekend.

Special goggles simulated your perception at just below the legal limit (0.07 grams alcohol/100 mL blood) and another at more than twice the legal limit (0.170 grams alcohol/100 mL blood).

There was a daytime and nighttime version for each of these, said Fort Frances OPP Cst. Mark Boileau, who manned the booth in conjunction with the local Substance Abuse Prevention Team.

Then it was a matter of picking up a pair of car keys, walking around some pylons, and then getting into a car simulator.

It didn’t take Genelle McQuaker, wearing the highly-intoxicated goggles, long before she “drove” her virtual car into the corner of a building, lasting less than 30 seconds in the simulator.

She also failed the “roadside test” Cst. Boileau gave her as she was asked to walk the yellow line of tape put down on the floor.

Finding it with her foot was the first thing she had to do.

“It was pretty bad,” McQuaker said. “It’s like you’re drunk, thrashing around--like I had 30 beers.

“I thought they’d make you be somewhat like drunk,” she admitted. “It was the full effect.”

“It was pretty wobbly,” echoed Tom Vandenbrand, who also crashed his virtual car shortly after he began the simulation.

“Once I put the glasses on, I knew things were difficult,” he said. “Things weren’t the same.”

Tony Marinaro, a former public school board trustee, didn’t fare any better. On his way to the car door, he hit two pylons. Once behind the wheel, he went backwards before going forward--and then only for a short time as he hit a parked car before a police car arrived to pull him over.

“It’s really hard to have any judgment,” Marinaro said. “The simulator seems to react too quickly but I guess that’s where the glasses come in.”

Cst. Boileau was quite pleased with the number of people who went through the simulator, as well as the number of people who stopped by the booth to watch their “guinea pigs” go through the test.

“They were shocked, I guess, at how difficult it was to walk just around the vehicle,” he said, noting people watching would comment, “This looks like a drunk person walking.”

“That was the intent of it,” he stressed. “This kind of gives you an idea what a person would experience at this level of [intoxication], not only for the people with the goggles but for the people watching.”

Cst. Boileau said some found it interesting that even at 0.07 you still could be impaired--even though it’s technically under the legal limit.

“Just because there’s that magic number of 0.08 doesn’t mean you can’t be charged for impaired,” he warned, noting the charge could stick if the person failed the roadside test.

From his own experience, Cst. Boileau has encountered drivers with blood alcohol levels ranging from 0.120 to 0.180, with a large group in the 0.140-0.150 range.

He said the risk factor shoots up for people who have double the limit in their system. “They would do things they wouldn’t do when they are sober,” he noted.

“I think it’s a good booth, especially with young people learning how to handle the responsibility of being at the legal [drinking] age,” said Marinaro. “I think it’s very educational.”

“Everyone should try it so they know what danger you’re in [when you drive drunk],” echoed McQuaker.

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