Under the influence: Students get lesson on effects of alcohol

Soles shoulder-width apart, the unyielding, uniformed frame of Alaska State Trooper Ronny Simmons stood before a silent group of Kenai Peninsula College residents.


“Don’t ask any funny questions,” Simmons said. “But we’ll answer you straight, we won’t blow smoke.”

To his right, pairs of plastic facial masks sat on a table. Each simulated varying degrees of what it’s like to be inebriated.

Simmons led the pilot program “Drunk Goggles,” an educational presentation. Fellow troopers Matt Wertanen and Jason Woodruff assisted Simmons in the event, Thursday in the KPC residence hall multipurpose room. The trio explained common Driving Under the Influence-related traffic issues they’ve faced in their careers.

KPC student Zach Moore donned a pair of goggles that recreated his response to a sobriety test as if he was slightly inebriated. Lifting one foot off the ground was in itself a challenge, he said. Woodruff pretended to place him under arrest after barely two steps forward.

“They’re easy tasks,” Woodruff said. “They’re possible if you’re not impaired. Those tests aren’t set up for people to fail.”

After Moore sat down, KPC student Joshua Hutton stepped up. Simmons planted himself roughly seven feet from Moore. It was an easy catch, covering a short distance. Over and over Moore failed to grasp at the baseball-sized cushy ball Simmons tossed him.

By this time most students, including Moore, were laughing at every miss, but the implications of the experiment were clear.

“I’m not driving drunk,” Hutton said after the presentation. “I am glad I don’t have a license.”

After receiving a collective “yes,” the troopers placed the goggles on students playing a Mario Cart video game, and proceeded to pull over and test anyone driving questionably.

“I think I’m going to have to go again because this is too good,” Hutton said.

Residence Life Coordinator Leslie Byrd said the drunk goggles presentation was so far the most attended of their “low key” events.

Residents were also able to see the troopers as approachable people, Byrd said. The troopers are really good with the students, she said.

The idea to set up the presentation came from Resident Advisor Kirsten McBride, whom Byrd calls “Super Trooper,” for her inclination toward working in law enforcement.

Byrd said activities such as drunk goggles inspire inventiveness in the resident advisors.

As the presentation was wrapping up, Byrd walked back into the multipurpose room, where students were still playing Mario Cart wearing the thick, inhibiting goggles. Many raced through the virtual track with ease.

“OK, we keep making the nerds try (to play),” Byrd said. “Maybe that’s a bad idea.”


Kelly Sullivan can be reached at Kelly.Sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.