The White Earth Tribal Police Department’s message to young people is simple and to the point: Have a plan to get home safely. Studies have shown that people who have a predetermined plan are apt to use that plan when they are impaired, but those who don’t are more likely to climb behind the wheel of a car. When officers talk to classes and groups, they want to emphasize why it’s so important to have an alternative to driving when one is impaired.
Since May 2017, officers have used Innocorp, ltd. products such as the Simulated Impaired Driving Experience (SIDNE®) to bring home that message to teenagers and community members. And it’s working. “When I make presentations, the students are impressed,” says Officer Al Fowler, highway safety officer with the police department. “Many of them state that they’re going to talk to their parents that night. The idea is that everyone makes mistakes, and teenagers shouldn’t feel uncomfortable discussing with their parents what they should do if they make the mistake of drinking.”
Officer Fowler first heard about Innocorp’s products when he was looking for ideas to add an educational component to his department’s offerings. He checked out SIDNE and felt it would be a safe way to demonstrate impaired driving. With SIDNE, participants learn what it would be like to drive impaired. Their instructor has a remote that enables him or her to switch between Normal and Impaired modes. When the vehicle is in Normal Mode, it responds appropriately to the driver’s braking, steering and acceleration. But when it’s in Impaired Mode, the driver experiences a slight delay in those three functions, which simulates the effect alcohol has on driving. Officer Fowler’s department bought the SIDNE Version 7.0 Ultimate Package, which also included Fatal Vision® Alcohol Impairment Goggles, intoxiclock®, the SUM-It-Cup®, and the Fatal Reaction® distracted driving tool.
Since purchasing the products, Officer Fowler and his fellow officers have been able to use them in dozens of ways. During prom season, for example, they put together a two-day presentation: On the first day, they staged a mock crash, and on the second, they brought the SIDNE to show students what it would be like to drive impaired. They divided the students by grades and asked for volunteers to serve as drivers and passengers in the vehicle.
The White Earth Tribal Police Department also brings several different Innocorp products to county fairs and other community fairs across the three-county area it serves. In particular, Officer Fowler likes to use intoxiclock to show attendees just how much certain types of alcohol affect their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). He asks a volunteer to describe a recent drinking scenario, and intoxiclock visually illustrates the rate at which the body metabolizes alcohol given the person’s weight, gender and drinking pattern. The tool’s “countdown to zero” shows how long it takes for the person’s BAC to return to 0. “It’s very eye-opening,” says Officer Fowler. “I’ve had individuals say, ‘I was very close to still being impaired when I was going to work the next day.’”
After participants view the intoxiclock calculations, Al invites them to try on the Fatal Vision Alcohol Impairment Goggles that correspond to the highest level of intoxication they experienced that night. “Not only are they seeing their BAC on the screen, but we’re allowing them to feel the effects of their BAC with the goggles,” he says. “Even the simplest of tasks, like transferring ice from one cup to another, become difficult with the goggles.”
“We can’t fully simulate the impairment,” Al continues, “but we can give you an idea why it’s so imperative that you not drink and drive. The goggles simulate the loss of balance and coordination. You can get a feeling of how scary drinking and driving is and why impairment is so dangerous.”
Shortly after purchasing SIDNE and the other products, the White Earth Tribal Police Department wanted to create an opportunity for members of the public to try them out. So Al and his fellow officers organized their first-ever safety fair. They invited the local sheriffs’ offices, the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to join them as they educated local residents about how they could stay safe.
“I really appreciate how diverse the products are,” Al says. “If I only have a small space, I can use intoxiclock to make an impact with people, but if I have a larger space, I can bring out the SIDNE. Depending on the makeup of the audience, we can mix and match products.”
Now, Al has his eye on other Innocorp products that could help him with educational experiences, including the new Fatal Vision Drowsy and Distracted Goggles. “The support from the company has been amazing with all our products,” he says. “Any time I’ve needed something, the customer service representatives have gotten back to me right away.”