SAN DIEGO -- A new program at the San Diego Police Department gives teens a close up look at drunk driving.
The Teen Alcohol Awareness Program takes teenagers out to a live DUI Checkpoint to get firsthand experience with the issues.
“It was really interesting to see the in the field sobriety tests,” said Julia Lafferty, a 16-year-old who has been driving for six months. “I’ve seen them in the movies and TV, but I never knew what it was actually like. So that was a new perspective for me.”
Drunk driving has been a major problem in San Diego. Officers made 9,695 DUI arrests from 2012 to 2014, making San Diego the top city per capita in the United States for arrests. SDPD reports one in 10 teens will drink and drive.
To help with both of those numbers, the department created the new program in which teens spend a few hours in a classroom with their parents learning the facts and dangers of drunk driving. Then the parents leave and the teens head to the checkpoint. Seeing the harsh reality of people being arrested sticks with the kids well after the class ends.
“It was weird thinking that it was all real for them, you know, it was actually happening for them. They were actually being pulled over for drunk driving and that could really mess up their lives,” says 16-year-old Bella Norton, who just got her license last spring.
Her 14-year-old brother, Spencer, also went to the class. He says it scared him away from ever thinking about drinking and driving.
“At school we get to see those videos and it’s super depressing. But this was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
Officer Mark McCullough teaches the class, and says it’s been a resounding success. Since starting it last year, SDPD has given the curriculum to three other states. Meanwhile, High School drinking and driving has dropped more than 50 percent since 1991. But there’s always more to do.
“For DUI, we really want to get the message out there to the teens and their parents,” says.
To register for the class, click here.