SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Dozens of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School seniors hit the asphalt (and numerous cones) today while driving a computerized vehicle known as The Safety Bug that simulates the effects of drinking and driving on a road course at St. Bartholomew’s back parking lot.

Licensed students performed the test under the supervision of a trained facilitator, who controlled computer settings that caused the vehicle’s steering and brake systems to become unpredictable. 

“It shows kids exactly how their coordination is effected by alcohol, and it’s a great learning tool that we’ve been using for a long time,” said Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo, who thanked the Scotch Plains Police for participating in the clinic this year. “It’s not only good for the students, but it makes our community safer because it brings awareness to the harmful effects consuming alcohol and driving.”

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Passengers in the backseat learned a valuable lesson, too. They experienced the feeling of helplessness as a person along for the ride of a drunken driver.

“I think it’s invaluable for the kids to experience what it’s like (to drink and drive) in a safe, controlled environment,” said Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley, who was excited to participate in the program in his first year. “I’d like to reiterate to the kids that this experience is comparable to what they will feel driving drunk and want them to realize that it is dangerous. I can guarantee that this first-hand experience will help raise awareness on the risks of drunk driving.”

While students waited their turn to drive The Safety Bug, they met with Fanwood and Scotch police officers, who explained their first-hand experiences of responding to car accidents caused by drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Officer Elliott Bernard and Officer Michael Rusin from Fanwood and Detective Shawn Johnson and Officer Brian Cheney from Scotch Plains facilitated discussion at these stations.

“The bottom line is that the best thing to do is not drink and drive,” explained Chief Trigo. “Don’t ever get behind the wheel of the car after you’ve had a drink, I don’t care how old you are. You’re not only taking a risk on your life in your own hands, but other innocent people and I don’t know how you’d be able to live with yourself if you hurt someone or yourself.”

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for young adults ages 15-20 years-old.

“It is our goal to cut down risky behavior and have our children make informed choices when choosing to drive or to get into a car with someone who has be drinking.” said Liz Knodel-Gordon, Scotch Plains-Fanwood Student Assistance Coordinator.

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