Since March 2016, the Pueblo of Laguna Law Enforcement Program in New Mexico has a new tool at the disposal of its safety officers. With the help of a grant, the Highway Safety Program purchased the Fatal Vision® Goggles, the DIES® mat, and the Smash Match® game as a kit. Those officers haven’t looked back since.
“We ordered the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Event Kit,” says the program’s Highway Safety Grant Project Coordinator Beth Siow-Deutsawe, “and our highway safety officers have been using it successfully with their presentations to our community youth and [community] members. It is a BIG hit. The kids and adults love the interaction.”
Siow-Deutsawe explains that the Pueblo of Laguna Highway Safety Program has two basic types of outreach: children/youth and adults. The adult group consists of parents and community members. She says the department is especially dedicated to educating children and youth about the dangers of impaired driving.
In Laguna, that education begins as young as fourth grade with presentations in schools by the safety officers. The officers start by discussing the issues, dangers and consequences of driving while under the influence of alcohol with a class of students; 30 to 70 per session for elementary and middle-school students and a grade at a time for high-school students. Officers lead the discussions in a question-and-answer format, asking about students’ experience with impaired drivers. Questions might include: Have you ever ridden in a car with a driver who was intoxicated? Have you ever driven under the influence yourself?
The officers then introduce the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Event Kit, beginning with the goggles. Each student gets to try on the different Fatal Vision® Goggles that simulate five distinct BAC levels ranging from a <.06 to a B.A.C. of .25 +. The officers then move on to using the DIES® Winding Sidewalk and Roadside Sobriety Test and Stairs Challenge Mat with the students.
“Students get the idea of how they’re unable to function when under the influence,” explains Siow-Deutsawe. “They use the mat to try to walk a straight line and walk an obstacle course. They laugh at each other during the tryouts. It really drives home the point about how hard just walking under the influence is.”
Students then move on to the Smash Match game. Siow-Deutsawe explains that this game shows students how impairment impacts their motor skills and decision-making process.
Siow-Deutsawe says it’s especially important to reach youth and children with this message. Why? “On the reservation, we have issues with DUI,” she explains. There are two establishments on the reservation that serve alcohol. Nearby bars and establishments are also frequented by people who end up bringing alcohol back onto the reservation, or driving under the influence. This often results in speeding, which can also lead to crashes due to a combination of speeding and DUI.
“[The kit’s] been very useful in reaching our kids,” says Siow-Deutsawe. “We want to reach them young.”
Of course, the program also wants to reach adult community members, and Siow-Deutsawe says that the Fatal Vision® Alcohol Event Kit is a big help with that. Most of the adult outreach takes place at safety fairs and similar events in the community. Adult groups of 15 to 20 gather around as officers walk individuals through using the goggles, the DIES® mat, and the Smash Match® game.
The activity around the kit’s use always draws more people as the presentation progresses. “They’ll come to see what’s going on,” Siow-Deutsawe says. “I’ve heard some comment that the goggles are true to their experience of being intoxicated.”
In community settings, the program has chosen not to use the DIES® mat outside in order to keep it pristine. Instead, they draw a line for participants to maneuver instead. The officers also give out safety brochures that cover driving and bike safety as well.
Otherwise, Siow-Deutsawe says, the program hasn’t had to make many adjustments to using the kit in its safety program. “The mat and the goggles work well as presented. They always attract a new audience.”
And attract a new audience they have. Since March of 2016 when the kit arrived, the program has reached 169 students and 100 community members at two events. In fact, the kit has been so successful that Siow-Deutsawe wants to add more Fatal Vision® products to round out the department’s outreach efforts. She’s hoping to get a grant for 2018 to purchase the “You Call the Shots” Floor Banner.
“I’d also like more DIES® mats,” she adds.
Siow-Deutsawe emphasizes that the great things about the Fatal Vision® products is that they have a lasting impact, especially on children and youth. It gives them real-life experience in what it’s like to be impaired.
“We love the kit,” she says. “It’s worth what we paid for it—and then some.”