Statewide impaired driving awareness, prevention effort gaining traction
Paul Schattenberg, 210-467-6575, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has received a grant to provide free demonstrations on alcohol awareness and drunk-driving prevention in rural and urban areas statewide, said program participants.
“The Texas Department of Transportation has provided funding that has allowed us to put together a ‘Watch UR BAC’ program, which includes instruction by people with decades of combined experience in drunk-driving prevention, alcohol awareness and best traffic-safety practices,” said Bobbi Brooks, AgriLifeExtension program manager, College Station. “The BAC part of the program’s name refers to blood alcohol concentration.”
Brooks, who manages the agency’s Statewide Alcohol Awareness Program, said the program is currently taking requests and booking drunk-driving prevention presentations, which are made at schools, community groups, businesses, faith-based organizations and other small venues.
“We’re working on increasing awareness of our program by collaborating and coordinating with city and county officials, law enforcement, school districts, businesses, and other agencies with similar goals,” Brooks said. “We want to provide communities throughout the state with the opportunity to learn more about DWI prevention and to more thoroughly understand the human and financial consequences of impaired driving.”
The program has purchased a DWI prevention simulator, which will be used during demonstrations to show the effects of alcohol on driving skills, Brooks said.
“The simulator allows drivers to experience the obstacles and hazards they might encounter if they were impaired by alcohol,” she said. “Special goggles distort vision to simulate the effects of alcohol on eyesight, while the pedal car portion simulates the experience of driving while impaired.”
Brooks has years of experience with AgriLife Extension as a certified passenger safety technician, providing instruction on proper car seat and seat belt use, motorcycle awareness, bicycle safety and distracted driving.
Other Watch UR BAC program personnel include: program coordinator Laura Dean-Mooney, former national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, certified death notification instructor for law enforcement and a certified victim advocate; program assistant Susan Wagener, a licensed chemical dependency counselor with more than 30 years experience and certified grief counselor; and program coordinator Clinton Harnden, a former private school athletic director, coach and teacher.
“It is critical to get the message on impaired driving to youth and adults as we all play a part in preventing underage drinking and stopping drunk driving,” Dean-Mooney said. “Texas continues to lead the nation in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, and we need to address and improve that situation. Programs like Watch UR BAC help supplement other awareness and prevention efforts, such as those by MADD and other organizations.”
Brooks said program instructors also present information on the alcohol content of different beverages, educate participants on the effects of alcohol on the body and discuss the risks associated with alcohol poisoning.
For more information on the Watch UR BAC program, go to http://watchurbac.tamu.edu/.
“We’ve made dozens of presentations, and they all have been well received,” Brooks said. “We’ve even made use of social media so those interested can keep track of our efforts.”
The program’s “Watch UR BAC” Facebook page and “@WatchURBAC” Twitter account can be accessed for current program updates.