GC cops drive towards safety

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 Messenger photo by Andrea Cordle
 The City of Grove City has unveiled a new piece of equipment aimed at keeping city streets safe. Pictured above is the Drive Square Simulation System, which emulates real road condition while using the vehicle. The city plans to take the simulator to local high schools to teach students the danger of driving drunk.

Over 5,000 teenagers die in motor vehicle crashes each year. The Grove City Division of Police is hoping their new drive simulator will help reduce that number.

On Nov. 8, the city unveiled the new Drive Square Simulation System, the first DUI simulator in the state.

"We’re very pleased to be the first city in the State of Ohio to have this important tool to educate young people on the dangers of drinking and driving," said Grove City Mayor Cheryl Grossman.

Most simulators imitate both the vehicle and the road, using artificial environments. The new simulator models the road, while using the actual vehicle. The driver drives onto a computer-controlled road simulator ramp. Simulator sensors and actuators are attached to the vehicle.

"It’s like a high-tech video game," said Grove City police officer, Cindy Adkinson.

She explained that they can adjust the driver’s alcohol level, factoring in sex, age and weight. The simulator controls the steering wheel, allowing the driver to experience what it would be like to drive intoxicated.

Panoramic views of the computerized road are presented to the driver through virtual reality goggles, known as Head-Mounted Displays (HMD). The scenery is computer generated by virtual reality software. The software receives date from the wheels and pedals, providing an interactive experience recreating various driving conditions.

The simulator not only allows the driver to experience drunk driving, it can recreate typical driving conditions such as fog or rain, or it can test your skills in severe conditions, such as driving on ice or performing an emergency maneuver.

The Drive Square Simulation System cost $22,000. The funds were raised through DARE (Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Education) donations and cost the tax-payers nothing.

The City of Grove City has partnered with the South-Western City Schools District to teach the students the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

"This tool will enhance our DARE program at the high school level," said Police Chief Joe Wise. "It will give the students a real-life opportunity to see what it would be like if they were to drive drunk."

Doug Scoles, state executive director for Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), was on hand to praise the simulator.

"MADD applauds Grove City for what they are doing," said Scoles. "Kids are drinking at an earlier age and this will reach teens with an important message."

According to the MADD Web site, last year, 56 percent of high school seniors, 41 percent of sophomores and 19.5 percent of eighth graders report having been drunk at least once. About 12 percent of children aged 12 and older admit to having driven drunk at least once. The average age that people try alcohol is 16.

Traffic crashes are the number one killer of teenagers. Nearly one third of those fatal crashes are alcohol-related.

"South-Western City Schools is fully behind this partnership," said Sandy Nekoloff, executive director of communications for the district. "It will enhance our safety education and if it saves just one child, it will be worth it."

Demonstrations are set to begin after the first of the year.

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