Teaching the dangers of distracted drivingPublished 1:33pm Tuesday, August 23, 2011
BERRIEN SPRINGS — U.S. Rep. Fred Upton sure does a lot of driving. He also sees plenty of accidents that could be prevented.
Upton, R-Mich., was one of several government officials, law enforcement and educators who gathered Tuesday at the Berrien Springs Virtual Academy to unveil the newest tool to teach students the dangers of distracted and impaired driving — the Global Electric Motorcar.
“How many of us every day see somebody talking or texting while driving and you just shake your head?” Upton said. “This is a life and death issue. Distracted driving costs lots of deaths and injuries.”
The $25,000 vehicle, purchased from Tyler’s Automotive in Niles, is an all-electric, street-legal car that students will use as part of driver’s education and other educational programs. Students will be able to drive the vehicle using goggles that simulate being intoxicated or while texting to show the dangers of distracted or impaired driving.
The car is available to all county high schools and police agencies. It will also be available to schools in Cass and VanBuren counties upon request.
Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said the department previously used a golf cart for the educational programs.
“But this will take it the next step,” he said.
Milt Agay, the Berrien Springs-Oronko Township police chief, said the purchase of the vehicle was made possible through donations from several area businesses and foundations.
“This car is a long time coming. It was a two-year project,” Agay said.
Upton was the first to take the car for a spin Tuesday, driving through a course with the impairment goggles.
“It’s got to be pretty realistic. These goggles are designed to simulate a 0.15 (blood alcohol level),” Upton said. “It was really hard. You’re seeing double vision. This will be a great lesson to our kids.”
Berrien County Prosecutor Art Cotter said he has seen “too many young people killed” in avoidable accidents in his 25-year career.
“If this car can prevent even one, it’s worth every cent we spend,” he said.