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Photos by Fritz Rethage

Fatal Vision Program 2001
[2000 Photos] [HHPD unofficial page]

On May 15th, Heights students experienced "driving under the influence" with special goggles that simulated the effects of .07/.08% and also .18/.19% alcohol levels.

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The Record,   May 16, 2001

Virtual Reality Check

"Fatal Vision' goggle show teen peril of driving drunk

Nicole Gaudiano, Staff Writer

Jeff DePalma surveyed the course, got behind the wheel of a golf cart, and proclaimed: "I'll show you skilled driving now".

Quickly,  the 17-year-old Hasbrouck Heights High School senior cruised through the course.  Although he knocked down a few pylons, DePalma otherwise left things intact.

"See? That's perfection," he boasted.

The  DePalma slipped on a special pair of goggles provided by police that gave him the vision of a driver with about a 0.20 percent blood-alcohol level.

The results were a lot different. "Oh, I did bad on that," he said as officers reconstructed the toppled course.  "This is embarrassing."

In a field behind the high school, Hasbrouck Height police spent the morning Tuesday teaching seniors a pre-prom lesson about drinking and driving.  The class followed a heavy weekend for drunken-driving  arrest in the 2-square mile borough -- nine arrest in all.  One of those arrested was 19.

"You can talk to them all you want, but until they get a little experience ....," said Police Sgt. Jack Delorenzo, "You can't learn stuff like this in a book."

Police began using the golf carts in November. Hasbrouck heights High School's prom is in two weeks.

"It's no only for prom.  We've got graduation coming up," said Police Chief Michael Colaneri.

Just then, a girl wearing the "Fatal Vision" goggles finished the course, dragging a pylon behind the golf cart.

The 30-yard course included some tight turns.  But Delorenzo showed the students it could be done without goggles, speeding though the bends without upsetting a single pylon.

The goggles distort the user's vision, approximating the effect of a blood-alcohol level from 0.14 percent to 0.20 percent.

"It's like drinking 10 beers in three hours for the average male," said Police Sgt. Shawn Mullins.

"I feel like I'm going to fall over," said Dana Veri, 18, slipping on the goggles. "Wow".

After crashing into some pylons, Veri drove completely of the course.

"Remember; This only distorts your vision," Mullins told her, "You can still think."

A reporter who donned the goggles reached for the steering wheel and missed.

"You killed a couple of people," Colaneri said, referring to the pylons the reporter subsequently toppled.

Stephanie Renna, 17, took a wild ride herself.

" You are over to the right too much an so far you're hitting everything," Mullins told her.

Accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers, the officers told the seniors.

T.J. Kroneke, 17 seemed to get the message.

"It's dangerous," he said, "It could have been a person out there."

Renna, who said her car was hit by a drunken driver two months ago, laughed at the idea of driving drunk.

"After what I just did, I would never do that," she said, "That's crazy."


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