Crowds swarmed around a safety exhibit that gave them the opportunity to experience impaired driving without taking a drink or getting high.
“I’m still dizzy now,” Sgt. 1st Class Desion Fulks said.
A member of Headquarters Headquarters Company, Fulks tried to drive a peddle cart while wearing “cocaine goggles.”
The simulation was part of the Fort Meade Police Traffic Section’s Driving Under the Influence Education exhibit.
The interactive exhibit was a highlight of the 17th Annual Safety, Health and Wellness Expo held May 25 at the Pavilion.
About 3,200 people attended the three-hour event sponsored by the Installation Safety Office.
Jenelle Ferguson, safety and occupational health specialist at ISO, said the expo is held “to provide attendees the opportunity to gain insight in the areas of safety, health and wellness from subject-matter expects through hands-on demonstrations, interactives and literature.”
More than 65 vendors participated in the event, representing a wide range of safety, health and wellness organizations. Vendors included the Army Wellness Center, Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, Army Public Health, Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation, American Water, U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary, Digestive Disease Associates, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Fort Meade’s Army Substance Abuse Program.
The event was a mandatory training for Navy Information Operations Command Maryland and the Navy Cyber Warfare Development Group – Suitland.
Drugs And Alcohol Don’t Mix
NIOC Cryptologic Networks Technician Cassandra Chamberlain said the mandatory training was a good idea, especially for younger Sailors.
Many are just learning the ropes of being in the military, said Chamberlain, and may not be aware of the rules and regulations that pertain to their safety on and off the job.
“It’s a way to keep them out of trouble,” she said.
Many service members and civilians crowded around the Traffic Section’s Driving Under the Influence Education exhibit.
The exhibit displayed goggles designed to impair a driver’s sight as if he had ingested alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, esctasy or other drugs.
Visitors tried on a pair of goggles and then attempted to drive a peddle cart or walk along a paved road.
Lt. Daniel P. Schismenos, traffic chief, said the aim of the exhibit is to drive home the message that is it not safe to do drugs or drink alcohol and drive —or even walk home alone from a party.
“You’re too impaired to make it,” Schismenos said. “There are consequences for every action you take.”
Fulks said the experience of wearing a cocaine goggle was “horrible.”
“I’ve been intoxicated before, but I didn’t know I could do something like this,” he said. “I hit a [simulated] child, truck and a deer.
“This is one of the best exhibits here because you see firsthand how dangerous it is. I want my Soldiers to experience this to see how it actually affects them. It’s important.”
Joni Larabee, a clinical pharmacist, and Karen Bartholet, a public health nurse, who both work at Kimbrough, showcased a smoking cessation exhibit that displayed the dangers of tobacco.
“We want to show the visuals of what one year of smoking can do in your lungs,” said Larabee as she held a jar filled with liquid tar.
“This is what fills a smoker’s lungs so they don’t inflate. People don’t know how much smoking really affects you.”
Bartholet said cigarettes contain about 7,000 dangerous chemicals, such as rat poison, carbon monoxide and arsenic.
“It’s really gross,” she said. “Plus, smoking leads to heart disease, stroke and cancer.”
Prevention Is Key
Kimbrough’s Nicotine Dependence Program helps patients stop smoking by using medication management and cessation aides such as nicotine patches. Counseling is also available.
“We have a 45 percent success rate, which is high in nonsmoking circles,” Larabee said. “We have people who stop right away and people who come back after a year and try again. It’s an addiction, but people can stop.”
Ralph Cady, a past commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary in Silver Spring, said the organization’s volunteer civilians participated in the expo to promote basic water safety.
Cady advised that as families go boating this summer, they should remember that everyone in the party should wear a vest and avoid alcohol.
“If you’re boating at night, be sure not to drive at high speeds, be aware of your surroundings and make sure your boat has the proper navigation lights,” he said. “This will help other people to see you and avoid a collison.”
Samson Robinson, prevention educator for Fort Meade’s Army Substance Abuse Program, said people should be wary of playing sports while consuming alcohol — particulary during the summer.
“They don’t match,” Robinson said.
The summer heat, he said, drains a person’s energy and can warp their perception, the same as alcohol does. He said the combination acts as a sedative, which can be dangerous for those driving after a game.
“Be safe. Play a sport and drink later,” Robinson said.
Ronney Wright, a representative of the United Services Automobile Association, said the organization stresses financial wellness for service members and their families.
He said that when a family’s finances are not healthy, other areas of life can suffer.
“Debt can lead to other problems,” he said.
The organization distributed vehicle safety kits and sunscreen for the Memorial Day weekend.
“This is a great opportunity to be in direct contact with service members,” Wright said.
Spc. Tyree Carmon of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade spent time learning about car seat safety with experts from the Maryland Kids In Safety Seats.
Carmon said although he doesn’t have any children, he does have nieces and nephews who sometimes travel with him in his car. He said he has learned to make sure children are properly secured in their seats and that he doesn’t drive over the speed limit.
“It’s very important,” Carmon said. “You never know when you may need this information. You have to be prepared at all times.”