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Liberty students see, hear the effects of drunk driving

Liberty High School senior Allie Stallings wears goggles that simulate alcohol impairment as she drives with Cpl. Christopher Daly, of the West Chester, Pa. Police Department, during a class on the dangers of impaired driving at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions Driver Training Facility in Sykesville Wednesday.
Liberty High School senior Allie Stallings wears goggles that simulate alcohol impairment as she drives with Cpl. Christopher Daly, of the West Chester, Pa. Police Department, during a class on the dangers of impaired driving at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions Driver Training Facility in Sykesville Wednesday. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

SYKESVILLE - Allie Stallings stationed herself behind the wheel, goggles strapped on her face. Driving with the drunk simulators won't be that bad, she thought.

But then the world began to blur. She started feeling dizzy. The roads' twists and turns were distorted as she tried to weave through the driving course's cones.

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Driving under the influence - or glasses mirroring impairment - affects reflexes, vision and judgement, Stallings said. That message was echoed Wednesday as about 30 Liberty High School students attended a DWI Awareness and Prevention program at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions' Driver Training Facility in Sykesville.

Instructors helped students feel and hear the impact of driving while intoxicated. Students tested goggles simulating different blood alcohol levels. They heard from parents whose children had been killed by a drunk driver. And they listened on how a preventable death can devastate family and friends and turn a person with no record into a convicted felon.

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Formed three years ago, the program is a joint venture between Carroll County Public Schools and the Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute - a program of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Two sessions of Liberty High School students taking health II will attend the program, in addition to some Winters Mill students.

"We just want them to see that any amount of impairment is detrimental to your ability to drive," said Vincent DeVivo, a school outreach coordinator for the Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute.

So, they let the students get behind the wheel - a driver training facility instructor by their side - wearing goggles simulating varying degrees of intoxication. And it was stressful, C.J. Beasley said.

He could only see about 10 feet in front of him. His driving felt sporadic, his turns quick, the Liberty High School senior said.

Later in the afternoon, students sat around a table listening to mothers describe the pain of losing a child.

Cindy Mullikin spoke of how her 20-year-old daughter died in 1998 after a drunk driver crashed into the car Catherine was riding in. Mullikin and her husband formed the nonprofit Catherine's Cause to help fight drunk driving in the community.

Cheryl Hammond told of how her 19-year-old daughter was walking near their home when a drunk driver struck and killed her in 2011.

Both mothers choked up as they spoke of how close they were to their daughter and about the hole their deaths have left. But they speak out to urge others not to drink and drive. Have a designated driver or call a friend, they said.

It's one of the most preventable deaths, said Bruce Lohr, a community crime prevention specialist with the Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute. And the day was meant to prevent students from getting behind the wheel intoxicated, said Jeremy Davis, Liberty High School health II teacher.

"Hopefully it makes one kid make better choices - hopefully more than one, that is the goal."

More students should hear this message, Beasley said after he heard the two mothers' stories. It made him realize not only what can happen to crash victims, but the ripple effect it has on an entire family.

"I open the wound to children all the time," Mullikin said, "because I don't want them to do this to their parents."

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