Get the Matador Buzz raises awareness on drunken driving

Jessica Hager

CSUN students had the chance to experience the effects and consequences of alcohol abuse Tuesday during Get The Matador Buzz, an event that included the Save A Life Tour drunk-driving simulator.

The simulator, an interactive tool that cost $2.5 million to build, is shaped like the interior of a car and allows students to navigate roads on a large computerized screen as the device mimics the effects that alcohol consumption has on driving ability.

Brian Beldyga, co-founder of the Save A Life Tour, spoke about how alcohol impairs driving ability as students took turns behind the wheel.

“After just one beer your brain starts to shut down,” said Beldyga. “When the brain starts to shut down you start to lose capabilities such as multitasking and your peripherals can shrink up to 10 percent.”

The Save A Life Tour simulator travels to campuses across the U.S., giving sober participants the opportunity to see and feel the effects of drunk driving.

“I just tried to focus and do everything right,” said Ronald Weatherspoon, a senior majoring in communications. “It’s a good eye-opener.”

The event was held at the Northridge Center and was sponsored by the Klotz Student Health Center, the Athletics Department, the University Student Union, the Office of Traffic Safety and the Department of Public Safety. The room was divided into stations, giving students the opportunity to gather information from different organizations.

Daniel Foster, crime prevention coordinator for the Department of Public Safety at CSUN, used Fatal Vision goggles, which is another interactive device, to demonstrate the effects of alcohol on the body.

After placing the goggles over the eyes, the wearer’s vision becomes blurred, making it difficult to walk a straight line or perform simple tasks.

“Everything was a little fuzzy and my feet felt like they were going to the side,” said Bobbie Patton, a senior majoring in kinesiology. “It made it hard to balance.”

As students took turns wearing the goggles, Foster spoke about the legal consequences of driving drunk and handed out information on different programs provided by the Department of Public Safety.

“There’s zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol,” said Foster. “Basically the lesson is, you don’t drink and drive and you don’t get in the car with anybody else who’s had a drink.”

Along with the interactive tools, games and activities were organized to test student’s knowledge of alcohol related issues. Janis Martin, CSUN’s wellness coach, staged role-playing activities emphasizing strategies in dealing with problems that may arise due to alcohol abuse.

As volunteers acted out what to do when a friend passes out from drinking, Martin asked questions of the students who had gathered and gave advice on how to handle the situation.

“Hundreds of students a year are dying on college campuses of alcohol poisoning and we’re taught in society to leave someone to sleep it off, ” said Martin. “Never leave someone to sleep it off, unless you’re absolutely certain they’ll wake up the next day.”

Video screens depicting footage of drunk driving accidents and booths by registered dietitians, peer nutrition counselors and Mothers Against Drunk Driving rounded out the event.

Students had the opportunity to win food and prizes by going to each station and participating in trivia games like Alcohol Jeopardy, and the abundance of fliers and fact sheets made certain that every possible question was answered. The simulation devices garnered the most attention, however.

“I was sober and pretending to be drunk, and it was still really hard,” said Stephanie Ralls, a sophomore majoring in biology.

Upon being asked what she learned at the event, Ralls replied, “how difficult it is to drive drunk,” a message that the event organizers hope will reach all students.