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For Immediate Release
3/11/2016
Contact: Zina L. Carter  979-532-6417

THINKING TWICE

WCJC Safe Spring Break event simulates intoxication to discourage student drinking


Wharton County Junior College cosmetology student Jenna Aguilar of Wallis tries to walk a straight line while wearing “Fatal Vision” goggles during the WCJC Safe Spring Break event. The annual event is aimed at reminding students of the dangers of drinking and driving.

When Wharton County Junior College instructor Tim Arriaga isn’t teaching his students the finer points of engineering design, he’s patrolling rural roadways as a reserve county deputy, on the lookout for lawbreakers and citizens in need of assistance.

His time as a licensed peace officer has taught Arriaga some important life lessons, one of the most critical being that alcohol and driving don’t mix. For emergency responders – who see firsthand the aftermath of alcohol-related car crashes – it’s a lesson that is quickly learned.

“There’s no winner in an alcohol-related incident,” Arriaga said. “My message to my students is, ‘Don’t ruin your life or the life of someone else.’”

Arriaga and several other WCJC instructors tried to drive home that message by bringing their students to the college’s annual Safe Spring Break event. Held on March 9 at the Pioneer Student Center on the Wharton campus, the event used simulations, statistics, sobering videos and one-on-one discussions with law enforcement personnel to remind students of the risks involved with driving under the influence.

The timing of the event – coming the week before WCJC lets out for Spring Break – was no accident, said WCJC counselor and event organizer Patti Lawlor.

“You hear about horrible things happening on spring break and you want to do all you can to keep your students and staff safe,” Lawlor said. “You want them to think twice before taking those kinds of risks.”

Arriaga agreed.

“We want to give them an idea of what not to do,” he said. “We don’t want our students to ruin their lives in one week.”

WCJC student Kendall Baker of Fulshear attended Safe Spring Break and said it was an eye-opening experience. During the event, Baker attempted to toss a beanbag into a target while donning “Fatal Vision” goggles, a device that mimics the effects of being intoxicated.

She was unable to aim the bags anywhere near the target.

“It’s such a weird experience,” Baker said. “You really see how seriously impaired you are. This really makes you think.”

Daniel Martinez, a WCJC student from East Bernard, performed a field sobriety test while wearing the special goggles. Like most other students, Martinez found it impossible to walk a straight line – a test that an officer might require a driver to perform after being stopped on the suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

“These goggles show you how drunk you really can be,” Martinez said. “It makes you wonder how anyone can actually drive in that condition.”

Being able to experience these effects while being sober is an invaluable opportunity, Martinez noted, as it reveals just how much the alcohol can impair normal functions.

“This is definitely a good thing to do,” he said, referring to the Safe Spring Break event.

Safe Spring Break was hosted by WCJC’s Department of Academic Advising and Counseling Services as well as the college’s Office of Campus Security and Public Safety. It was a collaborative effort with several local and state public safety agencies, including the Wharton Police Department, the El Campo Police Department, the Wharton County Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Public Safety, the WCJC Police Academy and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).Great Western Dining Services provided refreshments for participants.

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