By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
Thousands of drivers will crowd Interstate 35 on their way to the bliss of spring break, sunbathing and beaches. Local and state agencies want to block booze from the spring break mix.
Agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will work the I-35 corridor down to South Padre Island to keep businesses from selling alcohol to minors and minors from drinking.
In Killeen, Central Texas College showed students why beer goggles is bad for driving. More than 275 students experienced a crash course in drunk driving with the aid of a simulator Wednesday.
Within minutes of strapping on a virtual reality headset, CTC student Stormi Parker understood why drunk driving isn't safe. Parker gripped the steering wheel and tried to avoid crashes, but delayed reactions - meant to simulate a drunk driver's response - blocked her from avoiding a pedestrian.
"I'd hate to think I caused someone's death from a decision I made," Parker said. "It showed me just how a certain substance can impact you."
The simulator reminded student Ladonna Evelyn to be safe before she travels to Miami for fun in the south Florida sun.
"It's like having a cracked steering wheel," Evelyn said of her efforts to steer to avoid a car.
The lessons protect students by giving them a startling reminder of how they can underestimate their sobriety, endangering others.
"We feel like we get them prepared for spring break ... because we want everyone to return," CTC substance abuse resource director Gerald Mahone-Lewis said. She likened the simulator to an "out of body experience."
Every year TABC targets roadside convenience stores where minors seek easy access to alcohol. TABC conducted stings on stores along I-35 to see if they sell to minors. The stores could receive citations, fines or lose the license required to sell alcohol. The stings started at the beginning of March and will run through the month.
"The intent of those is when college kids start heading down toward the coasts, it limits their access to alcohol at licensed locations," TABC Sgt. Victor Kuykendoll said. "They just can't stop and load up with beer and alcohols and head to the coast."
When students arrive at coastal spots, agents will investigate businesses who sell to minors and patrol the beaches for minors who binge drink. Many teen and colleges student lack experience with alcohol, but learn quickly when they drink too much.
"They're binge drinking, not thinking rationally and subject to get themselves or somebody else hurt," Kuykendoll said. "Ultimately the goal is to prevent anybody from dying from overconsumption and to prevent them from hurting others by driving."
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.
Spring break safety tips
Don't text while driving
Buckle your seat belt
Never drink and drive
Keep a designated driver handy
Watch your drink always
Refuse drinks from strangers
Take driving breaks every 2 hours
Swap from sleepy drivers
Get your vehicle inspected beforehand
Stay close to your friends
Source: Texas Department of Public Safety