The National Judicial College (NJC) exists to make judges lifelong learners. Located on the University of Nevada-Reno campus, it’s one of the most well known and respected colleges offering judicial education on a national basis. To attend, students must be current sitting judges in positions ranging from Justices of the Peace to State Supreme Court judges. Federal judges do not attend.
NJC is the recipient of two large grants, one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the other from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The grants are intended to be used to educate judges about traffic issues in the U.S., such as impaired driving, a major concern for judges across the country. Since traditional treatment such as jailing most often doesn’t change offenders’ behavior, NJC teaches judges how to sentence offenders more effectively. Part of that involves educating judges on the facts of DWI through the Impaired Driving class Program Attorney Melody Luetkehans facilitates.
One vital section of that class educates judges on what happens in the field when a driver is suspected of DWI. A law-enforcement officer comes into class to administer a standardized Field Sobriety Test.
“This is where we use the Fatal Vision® Goggles,” Luetkehans explains.
The judges themselves put on the goggles and walk the line, as if they’d been stopped for impaired driving. Luetkehans has two sets of goggles: a Red Label Goggle that simulates a .12 - .15+ BAC and a Bronze Label Goggle that simulates a .07 .10+ BAC. This shows how alcohol impairment can have a big impact on driving performance, according to Luetkehans.
“They’re a wonderful teaching tool for the judges,” she says. “They let them have a real-life experience.” Spotters are assigned to judges as they walk the line, in case they wobble. “Everyone wants to try them.”
The judges are very enthusiastic. One commented that the goggles helped him understand what officers go through in the field. Another said that the goggles are definitely worthwhile.
In fact, Luetkehans reports that several California judges find them so valuable that they use the Fatal Vision® Goggles in their own outreach to area high schools and junior high schools. They find it gives students a reality-based experience that effectively combats typical teenage “magical thinking”—that is, thinking that nothing can happen to them. Fatal Vision® Goggles prove that assumption wrong.
Luetkehans has been using the goggles in the classroom for four years, after seeing them demonstrated at a large conference where NJC also exhibits.
“They fit in with a classroom situation,” she explains.
Adults learn best when they can both relate through background experience and learn through experience, not a lecture. Fatal Vision® Goggles provide both, ensuring a learning experience that sticks with the student.
“[The goggles provide] an experience that will resonate with them when they’re up on the bench,” Luetkehans concludes.