Betsy Swanback

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January 14, 2014
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Roseburg students take peek at alcohol-fueled driving

Roseburg High School senior Shyann Swearingen put on vision-impairment goggles Monday and ran a cart off the sidewalk.

“It was crazy,” said Swearingen, 18. “It makes you wonder why people would get drunk and do that.”

At a seminar at the high school attended by about 30 students, Roseburg police used the goggles to demonstrate the vision-blurring powers of alcohol.

The seminar, funded by a $3,600 grant from State Farm Insurance, included talks by police and a repeat offender who served a prison term for drunken driving.

To get a feel for the hazards of driving drunk, students put on the goggles and tried to pedal an “impairment cart” around cones.

Junior Ian McGowan, 16, ran over a cone and said he struggled to steer the cart. “I felt like I had no complete control of my motor skills,” he said.

Officers Eric Schreiber and Brent Harvey put goggle-wearing students through sobriety field tests.

Students were asked to touch the end of an officer’s finger, balance on one leg while counting or walk heel-to-toe. No one passed the tests.

SaraDelenn Byrd, 15, could barely walk once she put the goggles on and said they gave her “fly vision.”

“You could see two of each cone,” she said. “Once you put those goggles on, you realize you never want to drive like that.”

Officer Dave Lund, a former teacher, warned students to think about their choices before getting behind the wheel. He once responded to a fatal crash involving a former student, he said.

“There’s nothing worse for me than going to a crash and seeing one of you,” Lund said.

He reminded them that impaired driving is not just someone under the influence of alcohol but also includes drugs.

Derek Brown, a Roseburg man who has been convicted of drunken driving five times, spoke to the students about learning from his mistakes.

Brown missed spending Christmas with his family three times and served 19 months in prison. He was last arrested 2½ years ago.

He said he was lucky he didn’t cause more damage.

“It’s been a huge blessing that I was never in an accident,” he said.

“When you’re drunk the ‘what if’ isn’t there,” Brown said. “You think you’re invincible.”

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The News-Review Updated Jan 14, 2014 12:43PM Published Jan 17, 2014 08:32AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.