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Teenagers learn about drug and alcohol enforcement at Summer Transportation Institute
Release Date: 07-22-2009
Author: Kimberly Mercer
Seventeen Vermont high school students gained firsthand experience on the importance of safe driving as part of the Summer Transportation Institute (STI). Since motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans aged 15 to 20, and teenagers are involved in 3 times as many fatal crashes as other drivers, these workshops were particularly relevant for the participants.
To get a sense of the debilitating effects of alcohol, and especially the dangers involved in driving under the influence, students paired up and tried to accomplish normally easy tasks—such as walking in a straight line to sit in a chair or applying lipstick—while wearing "Fatal Vision" goggles. The special goggles are designed to simulate the vision impairment that accompanies different blood alcohol levels.
The exercises were conducted by Officer Melanie Gaiotti, who explained that her job involves undercover visits to bars, restaurants and stores to make sure they are complying with Vermont's laws pertaining to purchasing and consuming alcohol. "Did you know," she asked the teenagers, "that it is illegal in the state of Vermont to be drunk in a bar?"
The students also met inspectors with the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles who led them into the mobile command center, which is used for interstate DUI checkpoints. Inspector Randy LaBarge explained that the trailer is outfitted with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and was purchased with a federal grant from The Department of Homeland Security.
Next, the students met Inspector Rick Moore and his assistant, a Labrador retriever named "Canine Duke," who has worked as a drug-sniffing dog for over nine years. Duke was led to a location with five sealed boxes and commanded to find the drugs, a half pound of marijuana hidden in one of them. The students were delighted by Duke's friendliness, as well as his usefulness.
The UVM STI is a partnership of the University of Vermont's Transportation Research Center (TRC) and Upward Bound Program, and is funded by a US Department of Education grant and the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The Institute aims to provide awareness to high school students on transportation careers, along with the complex transportation system upon which we all rely. While attending the STI, students reside in dorms on the UVM campus and spend their days in classroom, lab and field settings.
During the four weeks of STI 2009, students were treated to field trips to the Maritime Museum in Vergennes, the US Coast Guard Station Burlington, the Chittenden County Transit Authority (CCTA) Bus Garage, and a train trip courtesy of Vermont Rail Systems between Essex Junction and Burlington. The students were also involved in the Quadricentennial Parade, creating a float based on "The Evolution of Transportation in the Champlain Valley", and have participated in numerous career panels and listened to many guest lecturers.