Twice a year Dale and Arlene Lunen, along with the Winnemucca Police Department, present a three segment program about driving under the influence to Lowry’s Freshman Health class. The first segment is a presentation by WPD about the risks and consequences of driving while impaired. The second segment is a “hands on” field exercise where students drive an obstacle course while wearing “fatal vision” goggles that mimic the visual effects of drinking. The goggles that were utilized this year approximated a 0.07% to 0.1% blood alcohol content. The third day is a presentation by the Lunen’s where they discuss the loss of their son a week after he graduated to an impaired driver, and also his high school sweetheart six months later in an alcohol related accident.
According to a 2015 report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 52.1% of high school freshman in Nevada have tried alcohol at least once. By the 12th grade that number rises to 73.8%. Binge drinking is defined by the CDC as five or more drinks in one hour. In the same report 10.9% of freshman admit to binge drinking at least once in a 30 day period before the report was compiled. By graduation that number doubles to 20.7%. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), in a study that was conducted from 2008 to 2010, places Nevada in the middle of the states for teen drinking. Utah has the lowest occurrence with Vermont having the highest.
The Lunen’s began holding a presentation at Lowry in 1997. It wasn’t long before the WPD was included in the program and around 2001 the driving component was added. I asked a participant of the driving component, who was familiar with the UTV that the WPD uses and he responded that it was difficult and hard with the “Fatal Vision” goggles on. I tried the course myself and was within the average of cones, which was around 30% that were ran over by participants. The driving component only impairs the vision, it doesn’t have any effect on the reaction times for steering and braking; yet nearly one third of the cones of the course were ran over.
The Lunens believe that as long as they reach on student, and keep them from driving under the influence, or riding with someone who has, they have fulfilled their goal. Operation Wasted was originally developed by the Washington State Patrol and has been adopted by the Lunen’s and the WPD for presentation to the LHS students.