Goggle-eyed students are enlightened by police

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 9, 2001

Staff Writer

More than half of high school seniors nationwide drank five years ago and that number does not appear to be decreasing.

Last spring, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pike County conducted a survey in the Troy City Schools, asking questions about such issues as alcohol use.

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The percentages of eighth grade students who reported using alcohol in the past month was 24 percent; 40 percent among 10th graders and 51 percent among seniors.

Among the 392 students polled, less than half of them indicated they had experimented with alcohol.

Those are the kinds of numbers the Troy Police Department is trying to reduce by letting students see what they might look and act like when intoxicated.

The TPD recently purchased some Fatal Vision goggles, which simulate drunkenness, in part with a program that demonstrates how quickly impairment can turn fun into devastating consequences for anyone who drives while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Purchasing the goggles was the idea of School Resource Officer Willie Toney, who learned about them while visiting the SRO in Dothan.

"He let me look through them and I felt drunk the rest of the day," Toney said.

"I think it’s great," Toney said of the ability to teach students about alcohol use without the consequences. "They give you the full effect."

Abigail Suddith, a senior at Charles Henderson High School, said she will think twice before partaking of an alcoholic beverage.

"I felt dizzy," Suddith said of wearing the goggles that gave her the feeling of having a blood alcohol level between .07 and .17. "It was hard to walk the line."

Tiffany Jackson, another CHHS senior, said she thinks the goggles are a "neat" way to experience being drunk.

"It made me want to not drink," Jackson said, adding the goggles made her dizzy.

CHHS Principal Linda Felton said the goggles are "a good proactive measure we can use to encourage students not to drink" and she looks forward to putting the goggles to use in educating students about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"This gives them firsthand experience as to how distorted things can be when under the influence," Felton said after stumbling along a foot away from the line she was supposed to walk.

Officers with the Troy Police Department know the consequences ­ a trip to jail or even death.

"We want to do what we can to prevent any tragedy," Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage said.

But, what makes those numbers even scarier is many of those students start drinking before they even get to college.

Each year, college students spend an estimated $5.5 billion on alcohol ­ more than they spend on books, soft drinks and coffee combined.

College students drink about four billion cans of beer each year.

Another staggering statistic is the total amount of alcohol consumed by college students each year is 430 million gallons ­ enough for every college and university in the United States to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Everage said being proactive and teaching students about alcohol use and abuse earlier may have an impact on drinking among college students