Students learn reality of drunk driving

The prom season brings renewed concern about youngsters drinking and driving. This Crime Tracker focuses on why youngsters need constant reminders to stay safe, smart, and sober.

Golf carts, traffic cones, and goggles help Collierville's newest drivers learn a life-or-death lesson. They are special goggles that simulate what a drunk might see or might not see while driving:

"Whoops. One dead. Take your turn. This is hard. It is hard," said the training deputy to the young driver attempting to navigate the cones.

"The cones looked like they were right next to each other. It was all blurry and it was just hard," said Julie Dianne Wright, after knocking a few of the orange markers over, while wearing the goggles.

It's a rite of spring: adults harping on the don't drink and drive message in prom season: "I think they forget sometimes a car is like a missle. It is a deadly instrument and can cause death or injury for life," said Lt. Lee Newkirk of the Shelby County Sheriff's Department.

This wrecked car helps hammer home the message. These wide-eyed youngsters in Collierville were only 10-years-old or younger seven years ago when a drunk driver killed Dave Brown's daughter, Stefanie; her daughter Zadie; and her unborn brother, Thomas.

"We say a picture is worth a thousand words. They see this vehicle and they say wait a minute, maybe I ought to stop and think. And we encourage them to talk it over with Mom and Dad before they go to the prom and say, look, Mom, Dad, if I need a ride home, will you please come and get me and don't be upset if I call you because my boy friend's drinking," said Lt. Newkirk

"Students think they're immortal, nothing bad will happen to them. But I'm hoping, especially in light of recent tragedies, that they'll think about it, that some of this sinks in and they'll think about it before they get behind the wheel of a car and that they'll think about it before drinking and driving," said Dr. Time Setterland of Collierville High School.

Deputies were in Bartlett Tuesday, Collierville on Wednesday and will go to Cordova next week, showing Stefanie's wrecked car and running the golf cart exercise.

Lt. Newkirk says you should not ever get in a car with a drunk driver behind the wheel--period. A good friend of mine gives his teenage son a fifty dollar bill they tuck away in a dark corner of their wallets. The money is only allowed to be spent on a cab in case of emergency to avoid riding with a drunk driver.