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The DUI experience brings reality to drinking and driving

Staff Sgt. Steven Jackson of the 97th Intelligence Squadron takes part in the DUI experience exercise held here May 20. (U.S. Air Force Photo By/Josh Plueger)

Staff Sgt. Steven Jackson of the 97th Intelligence Squadron takes part in the DUI experience exercise held here May 20. (U.S. Air Force Photo By/Josh Plueger)

Six Offutt Airmen participated in a controlled drinking and driving exercise May 20 as part of the DUI Experience organized by the 55th Wing Safety Office, 55th Wing Security Forces Squadron, the Omaha chapter of the National Safety Council and Airmen Against Drunk Driving. (U. S. Air Force Photo By/Josh Plueger)

Six Offutt Airmen participated in a controlled drinking and driving exercise May 20 as part of the DUI Experience organized by the 55th Wing Safety Office, 55th Wing Security Forces Squadron, the Omaha chapter of the National Safety Council and Airmen Against Drunk Driving. (U. S. Air Force Photo By/Josh Plueger)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- The drunk driver swerves the four door sedan sharply, knocking over several cones. The car's tires let out a painful squeal as it speeds through the parking lot.

Fortunately, the drunk driving was a controlled situation called the DUI Experience held here May 20 at the parking lot behind the new Air Force Weather Agency building.

To get the message across, the 55th Wing Safety Office, the 55th Security Forces Squadron, the Omaha Chapter of the National Safety Council and AADD teamed up to organize the exercise called the DUI Experience.

The DUI Experience allowed six Airmen to drink and drive in a controlled environment. Participants were given breathalyzer tests before, during and after alcohol consumption to monitor blood alcohol content along with field sobriety tests. The drinkers then got behind the wheel of a car and tried to maneuver around cones in a parking lot.

While the number of drinks varied per individual, the results were the same. Their driving abilities were affected when intoxicated.

While some were able to navigate the course without incident, said Master Sgt. Scott Crossman, 55th SFS first sergeant, "their inhibitions were lower along with their regard for safety, like looking before backing up and the speed with which they navigated the course."

"The purpose of this exercise was to educate fellow Airmen on the actual effects of alcohol by showing the impairment effects," said Lt. Col. Daryl Page, 55th Wing chief of safety. "Even when your blood alcohol content is below the legal limit; it still isn't a good idea to get behind the wheel."

The message that is emphasized by the 55th Wing is "Have a plan before you start." The DUI Experience aims to drive home that message in a safe environment.

"To keep the environment safe and controlled, we used a student driver car with
an extra brake on the passenger side with Sergeant Crossman in control of the brakes," he said.

Four members of Airmen Against Drunk Driving were also on hand to assist the event participants.

Being a designated driver for this event involved picking up the drinking participants at their homes, taking them to the event then making sure they got home safely, said Airman 1st Class Dakota Halvorson, 55th Medical Support Squadron admissions and dispositions clerk.

"I noticed that the people participating in the DUI Experience felt that they had a buzz but only half felt comfortable to drive," he said. "The other half said they wouldn't drive after drinking but felt fine to drive."

Determining how many drinks a person can have and still be under the legal driving limit can't be determined, especially after a few drinks.

"It's impossible to tell how intoxicated you are or will get when going out drinking so you should always have a safe plan to get home," said Colonel Page.

The DUI Experience taught an important lesson to everyone who participated.

"The experience was amazing," said Senior Airman Clayton Perry, 55th Medical Support Squadron medical systems help desk clerk. "I learned that even when I feel like I'm okay and think I still have the ability to concentrate, my blood alcohol level may tell a different story."

"I didn't know how inebriated I would feel," said Staff Sgt. Steve Jackson, 97th Intelligence Squadron airborne cryptologic linguist. "When I got in the car after I had been drinking, I knew I had to pay more attention, but I thought I could still get through it."

"The bottom line I got from the event was that you really can't judge for yourself what your BAC is after you've had even a couple of drinks," he said. "You might feel fine or buzzed or completely drunk and have no idea you're legally drunk."

"I learned that buzz driving is drunk driving," said Airman 1st Class John French, 55th Force Services Squadron services apprentice. "If you or a buddy had a few drinks or enough to put you past the legal limit, don't take a chance. It's better to be safe than sorry."

Offutt team members are reminded to have a designated driver or another plan in place if they drink. If that plan falls through, AADD and the Chief's Happy Cab are available to assist Offutt team members get home safely.

To volunteer for AADD, visit www.aacoffutt.org/aadd. Anyone is welcome to volunteer.

Have a plan, be a wingman
AADD: 294-AADD (2233)
Chief's Happy Cab: 339-0110