DUI Awareness Fair steers students away from thinking about driving impaired

Shadera Woodland, 18, physical therapy major, steers a golf cart while wearing drunk goggles as ECPD Officer Matt Ryan holds on while guiding Woodland at the DUI Awareness Fair on Wednesday. ECPD hosted the event for students to learn about the dangers of impaired driving. Photo credit: John Fordiani

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious problem in the Untied States. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in 2012 alone, there were 10,322 fatalities in the U.S. that were the result of a DUI related collision.

On Oct. 29, El Camino Police Department (ECPD) organized and hosted the 14th Annual DUI Awareness Fair to discuss the ongoing battle against DUI.

ECPD made use of special eyewear that simulated impairment by both alcohol and marijuana. To highlight the difference between impairment and sobriety, ECPD set up several interactive demonstrations for students to take part in.

Detective Jeffrey Lewis, who organized the event, felt the golf cart obstacle course was the most effective tool at the event because it captured the biggest audience.

“That’s the one that draws the most attention because it’s a lot more fun,” Lewis said. “Everyone drives a car, so everyone wants to drive a golf cart.”

Lewis has experience with DUI situations, something that qualifies him to organize such an event. In addition to his 19-year tenure as a law enforcement officer, Lewis specializes in DUI and drug enforcement. He’s investigated 1700 to 1800 possible DUI situations and made about 950 DUI busts during his career.

At the event, students had the opportunity to wear impairment goggles while shooting a basketball into a hoop. An officer was also giving field sobriety tests to students who volunteered.

During the event, a wrecked car that was provided by MADD was on display. The car, which was encased in a transparent trailer, looked like a pile of wrought and contorted metal.

ECPD Officer Matt Ryan said the driver of the wrecked car was driving with three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system – 0.24 percent. He was driving 80 mph in a 35 mph zone when he lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree. He was killed on impact.

“With the different activities that are out there, what we are trying to demonstrate is that if you are an impaired driver – whether it’s alcohol or some other substance – your driving ability is impaired,” EC Police Chief Michael Trevis said.

From the event, students received positive reinforcement for their previous knowledge. Others obtained new knowledge that they plan to implement in their own lives.

Robbie Mazzarino, 21, kinesiology major, participated in the basketball shooting event. He made three of his six attempts, exceeding the average score.

“I don’t do stuff drunk in the first place, but this is fun,” Mazzarino said.

Others found the event enlightening. Cheyenne Ross, 19, psychology major, took part in the golf cart event.

“It’s a good eyeopener for the youth, because I’m pretty sure a lot of people drive under the influence,” Ross said. “I will definitely make sure that I have a designated driver if I do decide to do anything.”

Trevis said the response to the event was positive, adding that being able to see and participate in these kinds of activities is different than just hearing someone talk about the consequences.

“I hope and I pray that students walk away understanding and tell their friends that they participated in this event,” Trevis said. “The whole goal is to save lives. If we can save just one life, this is worth it.”