[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                   October 10, 2008

New vehicle simulates 
drunk-driving experience

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

Soldiers from Fort McCoy’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) are helping to test the newest technology and leading the way to help the rest of the state realize the dangers of drinking and driving.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Myron Green (seated) of HHC gets ready to test drive the SIDNE, under the watchful observation of unit prevention leader personnel Staff Sgt. Milicent Sutters (left) and Capt. Neil Hogie. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Staff Sgt. Myron Green (seated) of HHC gets ready to test drive the SIDNE, under the watchful observation of unit prevention leader personnel Staff Sgt. Milicent Sutters (left) and Capt. Neil Hogie. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

Eric Pedersen, the Fort McCoy Army Alcohol and Drug Control officer for the Directorate of Human Resources/Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said the installation is the first Wisconsin organization to obtain a SIDNE (pronounced like the name Sidney), a Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience. A SIDNE is a battery-powered vehicle that simulates the effects of alcohol or other drugs on a motorist’s driving skills and reaction time.

The vehicle, which looks like a modified go-cart, and a driving course were set up outside of McCoy’s Sept. 24-25 to let military personnel see their reactions during impaired driving, Pedersen said. It also let other personnel driving past see the effects of impaired driving.

"I’m giving the personnel who use it two trips around the course," Pedersen said. "The first time is a normal drive to let them get used to the equipment. The second replicates driving in an impaired condition. They (drivers) have a delayed reaction trying to respond to an obstruction in a timely manner or being faced with crashing into something."

Several HHC motorists drove the vehicle, which has a top speed of about 12 mph, around the course.

Drunk driving arrest can lead to 1-year suspension of post driving privileges

Members of the Fort Mc-Coy work force who are arrested for drunk driving — on or off post — can lose their installation driving privileges for one year, according to the Fort McCoy Installation Legal Office (ILO).

Maj. Eric Teegarden, an ILO attorney, said being arrested for drunk driving also can affect driving privileges off post and military careers.

All personnel arrested for drunk driving on Fort McCoy by Fort McCoy police will be issued a ticket to appear in federal court in Madison, Wis.

Installation driving privileges will be revoked for one year. Personnel can request a hearing within 14 days of the suspension to plead their case.

Military personnel arrested for drunk driving on Fort McCoy can face the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), as well. For drunk driving, the UCMJ is a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR) that can go into a Soldier’s permanent record.

"A GOMOR can be an excellent means for a Soldier to stop worrying about promotion to a higher grade," Teegarden said.

In addition, the drunk driving offenses are reported to the licensing agency where the individual has his or her civilian license so it becomes part of that record as well.

The same consequences apply to personnel in the Fort McCoy community who are arrested for drunk driving off of the installation, Teegarden said.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department or the corresponding ticketing law enforcement agency will issue the ticket or citation.

Personnel in the Fort Mc-Coy community convicted of drunk driving on or off Fort McCoy will face a one-year suspension of their driving privileges on post.

After the year is up, personnel may request reinstatement of their driving privileges at Fort McCoy. Specific information on the process is included in the letter notifying the offender of the suspension.

"(The best advice I can give to Fort McCoy motorists is) Don’t drink and drive!" Teegarden said.

More information about drunk-driving consequences at Fort McCoy is available by calling the ILO at (608) 388-2165, the Fort McCoy Police Traffic Section at (608) 388-2044 (for all traffic infractions) or by reviewing Army Regulation (Fort McCoy) Regulation 190-5, the Installation Access Control and Traffic Code.

"Offering this training ...is a good way to support the Army Community Covenant by making driving safer at Fort McCoy and in the surrounding communities."

Eric Pedersen,
Fort McCoy Army Alcohol and Drug Control officer

When the equipment was put into the impaired mode and they tried to regain control of the vehicle, a common refrain was "What happened?"

Capt. Neil Hogie, a unit prevention leader (UPL) for the HHC, appeared on site shortly after the "crash" scenario or near-crash scenario to conduct an After-Action Review with the hope drivers realize they must have a safe plan on how to return home if they decide to go out drinking. Drinking and driving is not a plan.

Pedersen noted these mishaps are called crashes instead of accidents because personnel involved in them likely would have avoided them if they weren’t driving impaired.

A crash is 100 percent avoidable; with a plan a drinker can avoid a crash by not driving.

"Officer (so and so) is arresting you for suspicion of driving under the influence," Hogie told one of the drivers. "One of these (impaired driving) crashes may cost the drivers several thousands of dollars — in attorney fees for court and relicensing costs, an increased insurance rate, lost work time costs and employment costs."

"Personnel who do this can have their driving privileges suspended on the installation for one year," he said. "These actions also may threaten their career."

Staff Sgt. Milicent Sutters, the HHC Supply Sergeant and alternate UPL for HHC, said she and Hogie helped sponsor the training as part of the duties to get personnel more motivated and aware of being impaired because of alcohol.

"This helps our personnel to understand why they shouldn’t drink and drive," Sutters said. "Many personnel would be embarrassed to let other people know they were driving drunk. Some personnel think they’re unstoppable and can take on anything, but they’re not, and they can’t do that."

Pedersen said the company that makes the SIDNE is located in Verona, Wis., which is near Madison.

The company also makes the fatal vision goggles, which simulate the effects of being drunk or impaired. The company noticed that personnel were using the goggles with golf cart vehicles to replicate drunk driving.

Pedersen said this could be unsafe so the company designed the SIDNE vehicle that can replicate the effects of impaired driving. The equipment features instructor controls that can be used to override the student controls, if necessary, and seat belts.

For more information, visit the Web site http://www.fatalvision.com.

The vehicle and training will be available, upon request, to every organization or activity in the Fort McCoy community, including civilian personnel.

Pedersen, a former educator, said he also plans to offer the training or use the vehicle to demonstrate the effects of impaired driving in local schools in Tomah or Sparta, which many of the children in the Fort McCoy community attend.

"Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunk driving in the nation," according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released earlier this year, Pedersen said. "Offering this training will hopefully help combat that trend and also is a good way to support the Army Community Covenant to make driving safer at Fort McCoy and in the surrounding communities."

For more information or to schedule training, call Pedersen at (608) 388-2441.


[ Top of Page ]

[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]