With her arms stretched to maintain balance, Patience Mudundulu struggled to take a step forward. She mustered the courage, took a step and nearly fell over.
“That’s why you don’t drive drunk,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln police officer Aaron Pembleton said as he asked for the beer goggles back.
Mudundulu and about 150 other students took part in activities for National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week on Tuesday. Numerous booths were set up in front of Broyhill Fountain around noon, informing students about different aspects about alcohol. The event was sponsored by the University Health Center.
“We just want to raise awareness,” said Leah Wilmes, a graduate student in education and a peer educator with the health center.
Crysta Chalupa, a junior nutrition and health science major, also helped out at one of the booths. Chalupa said that the event’s message of risk reduction was a good way to communicate the dangers of alcohol. She said students ignore messages about alcohol from authority figures.
“It’s easier to relate,” Chalupa said. “They know that I’m not trying to tell them to stop.”
Wilmes handed out information about blood alcohol content and provided “mocktails” for people at the event. Wilmes said many first-time drinkers aren’t sure what a drink actually is, which leads to overdrinking. The health center provided models of each unit of alcohol: a shot glass, 4 ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer.
University Police also provided a short obstacle course to show the difficulty of walking impaired. Students had to walk in a straight line, navigate several cones and throw a ball into a box wearing beer goggles. Pembleton routinely works with the health center to speak with students about drinking.
According to data from the University Police, there were 216 alcohol-related violations in 2011.
“I’ve never been drunk, but it was very difficult to walk,” Mudundulu said. “It shows you how dangerous it can be.”
Additionally, the University Health Center brought in the Beller Car — a vehicle that suffered extreme damages from a drunk driving accident that killed four people in 2002 near Albuquerque, N.M. The collision left the front half of the vehicle smashed inward, leaving only inches of space in the front seats. The car has traveled the nation as a physical representation of the dangers of drunken driving.
Mudundulu said the car was the most striking representation of what can happen.
“People die every other day,” Mudundulu said. “It’s really sad and can be prevented.”
Matt McKay, a DJ from KFRX, helped publicize the event during an on-site radio broadcast. McKay asked students in attendance to say a few words on-air about drinking.
“Don’t drink and drive or you’ll kill people,” McKay said.
McKay said he hoped most students would plan ahead if they choose to drink. He said students should designate a driver or have a number for a taxi company in their phones just in case.
“It’s a lot easier to plan before you go out instead of 2 in the morning,” McKay said.
The Nebraska Department of Roads also provided a drunken driving simulator for students. The driving simulator would slowly become less responsive, mimicking the difficulties of drunken driving. Once the driver had made a number of mistakes, the software displayed all of the traffic violations that had been made. DeWayne Taylor, a freshman general studies major, tried the simulator and failed a few minutes in.
“I thought I was doing OK, then I crashed into a tree,” Taylor said.