FSU introduces new tool to help community reduce impaired driving

Donald Post, Student Government Association Director of Health Services, tries out the SIDNE vehicle.

FSU’s Division of Student Affairs recently introduced Tallahassee to SIDNE (Simulated Impaired Driving Experience), the newest tool to help reduce impaired driving by students as well as drivers throughout the greater community.

FSU recently became the first university in Florida to purchase the battery-powered remote-controlled vehicle that resembles a go-cart and simulates the experience of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

"By providing teachable moments as they experience SIDNE, we intend to give students a powerful hands-on experience to dispel the myth that they can drive competently under the influence," FSU Vice President for Student Affairs Mary Coburn said.

Weighing more than 300 pounds and measuring approximately six feet long, the SIDNE vehicle is put through its paces by an instructor with a remote control. Set first to simulate unimpaired driving, with a flip of the remote switch SIDNE then simulates the dramatic way in which alcohol and drugs negatively affect driver reaction times. Afterwards, participants can talk with facilitators about the experience, which aims to generate better future decisions by drivers before they ever get behind the wheel.

In addition to educating FSU students at campus events, SIDNE also will be used as part of outreach programs to area schools, colleges and community groups.

"We have already received requests to take SIDNE to several off-campus events," FSU Thagard Student Health Center Director Lesley Sacher Sacher said. "We’re pleased to be collaborating with local law enforcement, Leon County Schools and other area organizations to make Tallahassee safer for all its residents."

FSU police and area law enforcement officials welcome the collaboration. In 2005, FSUPD issued 126 citations for driving under the influence (DUI), up from 61 in 2004; TPD issued 429 DUI citations, up from 381; and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office issued 493, up from the previous year’s 422.

"Far too often, we see the negative, and sometimes fatal, consequences of impaired driving," Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) Chief Walt McNeil said. "We look forward to partnering with FSU and SIDNE to fight this dangerous community-wide problem."

Anyone interested in using SIDNE as part of an educational program should contact Dan Moore, a health educator with the FSU Thagard Student Health Center, at (850) 644-8871.