March 26, 2012
By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff Writer
The Fort Rucker Army Substance Abuse Program is looking to help save lives through education and technology as it hosts the Save A Life Tour during Alcohol Awareness Month at the Post Theater April 16-18.
The Save A Life Tour, or SALT, is a nationwide tour that goes through different installations and schools to educate people about the harmful effects of drinking and driving, said Denise Clarke, ASAP Risk Reduction Program coordinator, adding that ASAP wanted to bring the tour back to the installation this year due to its popularity and success last year.
There will be limited seating available, so, ASAP is encouraging people to sign up early for the tour to make sure they can get a spot in the new state-of-the-art drunk driving simulator that is featured at this year’s event, she said.
“We’re going to have [the tour] at the post theater this year,” said Clarke. “[Signing up] is the best way to make sure to get a spot, especially for units.”
The tour will begin with a presentation that will offer facts and videos about the devastating effects of drinking and driving, and feature a state-of-the-art drunk driving simulator that allows people to experience first-hand what it feels like to drive under the influence of alcohol, according to Clarke.
The simulator incorporates technology currently being used by military and law enforcement institutions that will allow participants to be able to drive in a totally interactive environment with a 225-degree field of vision with force feedback, steering, seat movement, and sounds to replicate a real driving experience, according to the program coordinator.
Participants will begin the experience as sober witnesses as they are shown other driver’s bad judgment and deteriorating driving skills due to alcohol consumption, according to Clarke. New drivers are chosen from the witnessing audience and are given an orientation in the virtual environment by driving a desktop simulator with a single display.
After the desktop simulator, participants will graduate to the full immersion simulator with five high-resolution displays and a different driving environment for each person. Drivers might encounter aggressive nighttime traffic or foggy conditions and icy roads, according to the program coordinator. No two drives are the same and the level of impairment is increased throughout the time of the drive to show the difficulty of driving under the influence, she said.
“[Last year’s] tour was an overwhelming success,” said Traci Dunlap, ASAP clinical case manager. “There were over 800 participants that attended, many who felt it was a unique way to illustrate the dangers of drinking and driving.”
Donald Schuman, ASAP manager, said he felt the younger Soldiers would definitely benefit from this tour and worked hard to secure the funding needed to bring SALT back to Fort Rucker.
Attending the tour also counts as credit toward the Installation Management Command-required annual alcohol and substance abuse prevention training for Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians.
“Unit prevention leaders will usually do a briefing with their units in order to satisfy the requirements, but people can come to [the tour] and receive credit as well,” said Clarke.
Soldiers and family members are welcome to show up for the presentation without signing up, she said, but will be able to participate on a first-come, first-serve basis if they haven’t signed up for the simulator ahead of time.
The mass briefings will take place 8-9 a.m., and 1-2 p.m., daily, and as many people that can fill the theater can attend, said Clarke, adding that the simulator tours are on the hour, each hour after the briefings.
Col. James A. Muskopf, Fort Rucker garrison commander, and Justin O. Mitchell, Fort Rucker deputy garrison commander, will be among those in attendance April 16 at 9 a.m. to participate in the drunk driving simulator and promote the message that the tour is trying to get out.
“I know it’s repetitive, but the message we’re trying to get across is to tell people if they drink, then don’t drive, and if they drive, don’t drink,” said Clarke. “[Fort Rucker] has a lot of Soldiers that are Aviators in training, and they are a younger crowd, and we just want them to think before they get behind the wheel. I believe that it could possibly save a life.”
For more information or to sign up, call (334) 255-7089.