Drunk-driving demo at Tech

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette John Wyrzykowski, a third-year mechanical engineering major at Michigan Technological University, tries out Unite’s Arrive Alive drunk-driving simulator as Unite’s Mike Vega watches his progress on a monitor.

HOUGHTON — Alcohol can breed an overconfidence in driving ability at the same time it delays your reactions — a slurred internal voice saying, “You got this.”

A driving simulator came to Michigan Technological University’s campus Friday with a message: You don’t.

Unite’s Arrive Alive Tour brought a computer driving simulation that through delayed reaction times and blurred graphics simulated the effects of drinking.

John Wyrzykowski, a third-year mechanical engineering student, tested it out. He was tasked with passing a slow truck in front of him with intermittent oncoming traffic in the other lane. Mike Vega of Unite egged him on, yelling “Shoot the gap!”

After a couple of successful passes, he hit an oncoming vehicle, signaled by a cracked windshield.

“It’s really cool technology,” Wryzykowski said. “It seems like realistic depiction of what driving impaired is probably like.”

Unite has three teams, covering about 50 locations a season — high schools, colleges, military bases and medical centers.

Even beyond the possibility of injury or death, the group is trying to convey the economic risks, too. A conviction could cost people around $15,000 in court costs and legal fees, said Ayron Austin of Unite.

They also have a simulation showing the dangers of texting while driving.

“This gives a really nice hands-on activity way of doing it, instead of saying, ‘Hey, don’t do that,'” Austin said.

Second-year environmental engineering major Emily Rutledge was one of the students who tried it out.

“I thought I would have more control of the wheel, but I definitely didn’t,” she said. “Even seeing the wheel was kind of blurry.”