BALTIMORE – Liberty Union High School senior Quinton Cook knows people who have experienced trouble with drinking and driving. “I already told myself I’d never do that,” he said. Still, he was willing to try the Safety Bug, a specially equipped Volkswagen Beetle that simulates the effects of drunken driving. Liberty Union High School’s Lookin’ Out Club invited the Pennsylvania based PA DUI Association to demonstrate the Safety Bug May 7 in the Toxco Inc. parking lot near the SR 37 and SR 256 intersection.
Mike Martin of the PA DUI Association is a former racing car builder who equipped the Beetle with devices to interrupt its steering and brakes, making it unpredictable to drive at the flick of a switch. Students drive the car though a course of orange pylons. Nearly all students navigate their first lap without any problems, but Martin ensures the vehicle will knock down many pylons on its second lap.
“It was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” said junior Jessica West, who smacked her share of pylons when the Beetle unexpectedly swerved to the left. West said the experience would definitely make her think her think twice about ever driving drunk.
Martin said the Beetle’s modifications simulate the slowed reaction time just one drink can create.
“It was pretty intense,” said Cook.
Martin also encourages passengers, who can experience first hand the helplessness of riding with an impaired driver.
The Liberty High School Lookin’ Out committee received a $2,000 Lookin’ Out grant to help educate peers about the dangers teens face on the road. This is Liberty Union’s first year receiving a Lookin’ Out grant through their partnership with Erie Insurance agent Mark Matthews of Mark Matthews Insurance.
The Erie Insurance Lookin’ Out program is a safe teen driving initiative in which friends create positive messages for their friends. The Liberty Union High School Teen Institute sponsored the Safety Bug’s visit among several programs this year to raise awareness of safe driving issues, including a staged funeral assembly following a mock crash of impaired drivers in April. The Teen Institute also sponsored seat belt compliance checks (nearly 80 percent of students wore them), created safety holiday posters, and many more activities.
Photos by Scott Rawdon