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North Hills

Safety Bug offers NA students valuable experience

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, 1:33 a.m.
The Safety Bug showed NA students how scary and dangerous driving under the influence can be.
The Safety Bug showed NA students how scary and dangerous driving under the influence can be.

To demonstrate the dangers of impaired driving, the Safety Bug swerved into North Allegheny Senior High School on Wednesday, Oct. 3, two days before homecoming festivities began.

The Safety Bug is part of an innovative program developed by the Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Association. The program provides real-life exposure to the perils of impaired driving, without putting students at risk.

The Safety Bug, a modified Volkswagen Beetle, has been custom engineered to demonstrate the loss of control one would experience if operating a motor vehicle while in an impaired state. The key difference is, it’s the car — not the driver — that is drunk.

About 400 students holding valid PA driver’s licenses took turns driving the car while a trained mentor in the front passenger seat controlled settings which caused the vehicle’s steering to lose its finesse and prompt the braking mechanism to become unpredictable.

The result exposed drivers to experience what it feels like to drive after consuming one or two alcoholic drinks.

Students were challenged to drive a straight line between two rows of traffic cones for a distance of about 30 yards while driving a maximum speed of 20 mph.

“I felt like I was going 40 mph. The car was uncontrollable. I took out a whole row of cones,” said senior Tyler Barnhart, 17, of Franklin Park. “It was scary. I don’t want that to ever happen in a real car.”

Two more students sat in the back seat, and soon realized the helpless position they could be in if they got into a car with an impaired driver.

“It was really scary. There’s nothing you can do,” said senior Barry Trainor, 17, of McCandless.

After completing the program, many of the students called the lesson a valuable learning experience.

“I didn’t realize I was out of control until I crashed into some cones, probably all of them,” said junior Derek Oczypok, 17, of McCandless. “I tried to correct, but couldn’t. It was scary.”

“This experience really makes you think twice,” added senior MJ Vento, 18, of Franklin Park.

The Pennsylvania DUI Association partnered with the Allegheny County Alcohol Highway Safety Program/DUI Pretrial Services Department and the North Allegheny Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Chapter to bring the Safety Bug program to North Allegheny free of charge.

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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