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Volunteers to drink alcohol, drive simulator in 'Wet Lab' experiment

Jul 28, 2013 - By Andrea Novotny, Staff Writer

In an effort to raise awareness about the effects of drinking and driving, Injury Prevention Resources will host a large-scale, public "Wet Lab" from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 9 in the parking lot of Hammer Electronics.

In each of three stages between 9 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., volunteers will consume three 4-ounce alcoholic beverages, then submit to a breathalyzer and drive a simulator. After the second stage, any subjects showing signs of intoxication will be given a field sobriety test by police officers. After the final stage, all subjects will be given a field sobriety test.

Every stage of the event will be filmed and subjects' intoxication will be constantly monitored using Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring technology.

The experiment measures variables including gender, weight and consumption of food, and examines the effects of different types of alcohol.

'$10,000 ride home'

Representatives from the FBI, the Riverton Volunteer Fire Department, Volunteers of America, Fremont Counseling and the Wyoming Department of Corrections will answer questions and explain the full effects of a DUI arrest or crash, including psychological effects and legal repercussions.

Injury Prevention Resources executive director Noel Cooper said driving drunk has been called "the $10,000 ride home."

"That consists of paying bail, paying fines, paying fees, paying insurance, time away from work, and what's not in the mix is the chance you have of losing your job," he said. "Most employers find you to be uninsurable.

"That's monetary, it's also embarrassing," he said. "Your name is in the paper saying you have gone to jail."

He said embarrassment doesn't end with the arrest.

"Our probation officers do BAC tests every morning and night," he said. "(Offenders) have to explain to their boss 'Hey, I need time off work because I need to go blow into the tube.' And all of these factors don't include if you happen to kill somebody."

Cooper said the $10,000 figure is only "a minimum of how awful it truly can be."

Part of the lab's purpose is to "dispel myths about alcohol consumption and to educate the public about the dangers of consuming high amounts of alcohol and operating a vehicle," Cooper said.

For example, people can surpass the legal limit by consuming only one of certain beverages, such as a Long Island iced tea.

The lab also aims to establish statistics on alcohol consumption and its effects on a person's ability to operate a vehicle safely. This data will be used in high school and college classrooms and for training of law enforcement officials, said Tom Cunningham, safety education coordinator at Injury Prevention Resources.

Schedule

Volunteers will arrive at 7 a.m. to complete a questionnaire and take a baseline breathalyzer test. At the end of the experiment, each subject will complete a follow up questionnaire and will be checked by EMS to be sure there are no medical issues before being taken home by support personnel.

From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a presentation of data collected using SCRAM technology during the event.

Each subject will wear a SCRAM ankle bracelet that will measure intoxication by reading the subject's transdermal alcohol content.

SCRAM technology monitors non-visible perspiration, gas released from the body, and provides a live data stream of each subject's BAC.

In Fremont County, 15 of Injury Prevention Resources' clients are currently using SCRAM technology.

The presentation at the event will "explain the science of the SCRAM bracelet itself and different types of issues it can be used as a solution for," Cooper said.

"The big thing I want people to understand is that DUIs are costing us a fortune in our community, costing people their lives, and most of the county thinks it is a problem," he said, referring to a poll done by Johnson and Associates.

According to the study, 91.3 percent of Fremont County residents think that drinking and driving is either a somewhat serious problem or a serious problem. Roughly 7.8 percent think it is a moderate problem, leaving only .9 percent who think it is not a problem at all.

In 2012, 69 percent of arrests made in Fremont County involved alcohol, which does not count people going to the Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center.

"We're not an anti-alcohol consumption agency in the slightest," Cooper said. "We just want people to make educated decisions."

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