Racing Toward Driving Safety

James McCulley of McCulley Family Racing in Pine Hill, New Jersey, spent 59 years in car racing. Since he’s built many race cars and investigated crashes, he knows all about safety and what can go wrong behind the wheel.

It’s no surprise, then, that he’s also dedicated the last 15 years to safe-driving programs for high school students. He’s partnered with the FORD Driving Skills for Life and used the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Impairment Simulation Goggles to create realistic presentations with lasting impact.

“We have three different programs we present in high schools,” McCulley says. He offers one presentation about the dangers of street racing—a big problem in his area of New Jersey—and another on different jobs in the racing industry.

“They think that the driver is the only job,” McCulley says, “but I introduce other jobs that are available.” He also emphasizes the importance of math in the racing industry.

Driving it home with Fatal Vision® Goggles
But the presentation with perhaps the widest impact is the one he offers on driver safety. And for that, he relies on the Fatal Vision® Impairment Goggles to drive home his points.

Why? “When you’re teaching about drinking and driving, it’s nice to let the kids experience what it’s like,” McCulley explains, noting that the goggles allow this to happen in a safe way and with maximum impact.

For these safety presentations, McCulley brings along New Jersey forensic police officers for an added dash of realism. He starts the hour-long class by presenting his own credentials, that he’s a drag racer and builds his own cars. Students then watch a short National Road Safety video on the dangers of drinking and driving. The video details what happens when someone is caught driving while intoxicated. It also shows how an impaired driving crash affects family members.

McCulley then asks for student volunteers to take a breathalyzer test, which the police officers administer. This is the first step in allowing students to experience what happens when law enforcement suspects someone of impaired driving.

Students next go outside to see the racecar that McCulley has brought with him. At this point, the students always have a lot of questions. Then students volunteer to get into the car with him. Sometimes McCulley will fire up the engine.

Goggles impact students
“The goggles look like clear glass,” McCulley says with a laugh. “The kids look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them what’s going to happen.”

Student volunteers put on the goggles and attempt a few activities while wearing them. They might try to navigate a course walking around traffic cones, try to pick something up, or even try to kick a traffic cone. The officers present will also perform sample DWI stops.

“They ooh and ah once they put on the goggles,” McCulley says. “They can’t even walk straight. It’s an eye-opener for them.”

He notes that students learn a lot—such as how uncoordinated they are while wearing the goggles and thus how alcohol impairment can affect their driving abilities.

When he puts on this safety presentation, McCulley usually speaks to 75 to 80 students per class and does eight classes in a day. He estimates that a total of 10,000 students see it each year. In order to maximize the impact of the goggles on students, he brings four or five sets with him.

Partnering with FORD Driving School for Life
In October, McCulley revved up his safety presentation at Overbrook High School by partnering with the FORD Driving Skills for Life. It was an opportunity for the Pine Hill community to work together. Included in the planning and presentation were the police chief, the board of education, the Overbrook principal, the guidance counselor, the driver’s education teacher, and police officers. Students were able to actually drive a course in one of eight cars supplied by FORD while wearing the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Impairment Simulation Goggles.

There were 75 student drivers involved. Each of them had to have their driver’s license or learner’s permit and a permission slip from their parents to participate. Student volunteers drove a course in the high school parking lot that had been marked out the previous day with traffic cones.

Students who drove wearing the goggles were accompanied by a trained defensive driving instructor in the seat next to them. Once the student driver finished the course, they had to perform a field sobriety test while wearing the goggles. In addition to the DWI experience, McCulley also created a distracted driving demonstration, with the defensive driving driver in the front passenger seat and a teacher and second student in the back seat to distract the student driver.

“The kids were fascinated,” McCulley reports.

He says that the students were so enthusiastic they begged for a return of the presentation the following year. McCulley says that the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Impairment Simulation Goggles play a vital role in all his safety presentations, no matter who’s involved. In fact, he finds them so useful that he always has a pair tucked away in his car and uses them whenever people ask him about crashes. Because, for him, in the end it’s all about safety.

“I’ve dedicated my life to safety on the highway,” McCulley says.