drunk driving simulator

A Georgia College student hits the virtual road in a DUI simulator on campus last year. Use of the simulator is paid for through a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, which Georgia College’s Office of Health Promotion received for the 13th time in a row this year. The simulator will make its return to campus sometime during the week leading up to spring break.

A long-running grant will help Georgia College’s Office of Health Promotion have an increased presence on campus once again this year. 

“This is the 13th year that Georgia College has received this grant consecutively,” said Rachel Pope, GC Health Promotion prevention coordinator. “It’s from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) and its main goal is to reduce high-risk drinking on campus and educate our students about highway safety.”

The grant totaling $7,400 has paid for a wide array of programming in the past aimed at helping college students make good decisions, and not just when it comes to alcohol. Teaching them about the dangers of distracted driving, as well as being safe while driving near cyclists and pedestrians— both things commonly found on any college campus— are also priorities. The grant mandates that at least four programs must be implemented each year with the funds, and Pope says her office went above and beyond last year by doing around 15. She added the grant covers, “all things that we can use on our campus to make it safer.”

A product of the grant that has been one of the biggest draws in recent years is an immersive DUI simulator that puts students behind the wheel of a real car, but is driven through the use of goggles with a video projection of the road in front of them. They drive as they normally would first, then under conditions simulating what it would be like to drive under the influence with manipulated brakes and steering. Last year for the first time, Georgia College Early College students took the wheel in the DUI simulator, and will do so again this year.

“We are allotted $2,000 for a contract service, and we can either bring in a speaker or do a DUI simulator,” Pope said. “A speaker generally hasn’t been justified for us to spend $2,000 on, so we really like the DUI simulator. We get around 150 participants doing that, and last year we also opened it up to Early College and we’re going to do that again this year. That way we’re not just reaching our college kids, but also high school students. We also would love for employees to participate too because DUI doesn’t just affect students, it affects everybody in general who’s driving in a car.”

The simulator will be placed in a high foot traffic area of campus most likely one day leading up to Georgia College’s spring break to give students one final reminder to be safe while away from school.

The GOHS grant also allows for four GC Health Promotion peer health educators to attend the Youth and Young Adult Highway Safety Conference on Jekyll Island this February where they will meet with other grant recipients at other schools to collaborate and discuss what is being done to promote safety on other college campuses around the state. In the past, funds have also been used to purchase signage and handouts to be distributed around campus. One new wrinkle GC Health Promotion is looking to add is a new online program that counsels students on their drinking habits. 

“We’re trying to amend the grant and ask them to pay for an online alcohol screening program that we are hoping to implement next semester as part of a motivational interviewing program to reduce high-risk drinking on our campus… We’re hoping this program would be used for students who are sanctioned a second time, not their first time. The benefit of this program is that students can also go through it voluntarily if they feel like they have a drinking problem. This online screening program would give us that foundation to help them modify their drinking. Rather than just tell the students to stop drinking altogether it meets students where they are,” Pope stated.

The prevention coordinator said all appropriate paperwork has been turned in for the grant to be amended, she is just awaiting approval from GOHS.

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