Ball High School juniors and seniors lined up to climb into the driver’s seat of a drunk-driving simulation machine set up in their school gym Tuesday. One by one, they buckled up, took the wheel, and started driving down the computer-generated road.

The machine simulated higher and higher levels of intoxication as the exercise progressed. The driver’s ability to control the car’s action got worse as the simulated intoxication level increased. Students soon found themselves so out of control that many ended up smashing into a house, another car or a person.

“I didn’t expect it to be so hard,” said junior Emily Wooten. “I kept veering off the road and finally ran into a building.”

The driving machine was part of the National Save a Life Tour High Impact Alcohol Awareness Program sponsored for Ball High students by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Throughout the day, during their English class period, 1300 Ball High juniors and seniors made their way to the gym for an hour of experiential learning about the effects of drinking and driving. The full program included a talk about the dangers of driving while intoxicated by program facilitator Cejay Rich, whose 15-year-old sister was killed in a drunk-driving accident, along with graphic banners and videos of grief-stricken families identifying their dead children in emergency room settings, a real coffin, computer surveys and the drunk-driving simulation station.

UTMB’s Dr. John Fraser and Diana Grimm-Mapp organized the event – one of many community outreach programs they facilitate as part of UTMB’s Level One Trauma Center injury prevention community initiatives.  The Ball High School student council hosted the program.

Student Council sponsor Lisa Schweitzer reported in an address to students at the beginning of the day that during the eight years she has worked at Ball High, the school has lost eight children to drunk driving.

“It really affected them, they won’t forget this experience,”Schweitzer said.