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Moon Students Get a Crash Course in Drunken Driving Prevention

Students learned first-hand about the dangers of drinking and driving through the "DUI Safety Bug" program.

The yellow Volkswagen Beetle swerved in the rainy Moon Area High School parking lot, veering off-path and knocking over a row of orange cones. 

Students at the high school had a chance to learn first-hand the feeling of loosing control behind the wheel, courtesy of the "DUI Safety Bug," a car engineered to simulate impairment experienced while driving drunk. 

Students lined up Tuesday morning to take a spin in the vehicle. The high school hosts the activity every fall as a part of its DUI prevention program. 

Faculty member Joseph Martonik said the simulation is a hands-on deterrent to drunken driving. 

"It gets the students behind the wheel and they can actually see what it's like," Martonik said. "What we're trying to do is show the student first-hand." 

The vehicle, operated by the Pennsylvania DUI Association, is programmed to function as if an intoxicated driver was operating it: Steering is unsteady and breaking mechanisms are unreliable, Martonik said. 

A vehicle operator is present in the passenger seat while the activity takes place. 

"Statistically, our highest crash rates are for this age group," said Pam Wahal, prevention coordinator for the Alcohol Highway Safety Program in Allegheny County, who was on hand for the program. "It's important to reach them when they're at this age." 

In addition to the DUI Safety Bug, the district also holds yearly mock crashes. Students celebrating their 16th birthday can take part in the "16 Minutes" program, where they have a chance to speak to a police officer about the dangers of drunken driving. 

"There's nothing like just getting them out there to see for themselves," Martonik said. "It's more than just sitting in a classroom talking about it. Here they can feel what it's like to loose control." 

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