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Fort Drum soldiers receive training about avoiding impaired, distracted driving

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FORT DRUM — Behind the wheel of a simulator car, control quickly slipped from the hands of Staff Sgt. David J. Zeneski.

As a computer rapidly altered control of the car, replicating the effects of having a high blood alcohol content, he ran a red light and stopped several feet from an intersection. Sgt. Zeneski then attempted a right turn, which carried him too far, sending him off the road and into a building, ending his ride.

“It felt like the wheel just kept going and going,” he said. “I guess it’d be the same way if I was totally wasted.”

As soldiers look to hit the roads for their summer block leave, officials on post are putting them through the “Save A Life Tour” training to help them avoid drunk and distracted driving.

“One accident is one too many,” said Albert S. Mack, Army Substance Abuse Program prevention branch chief.

Among the tips given during the training, held at Magrath Sports Complex, was to plan for a ride before drinking, save money for a taxi and put down the phone while driving.

In addition to a movie showing the dangers and victims of drunk-driving crashes, soldiers were given a chance to drive two simulators.

The second simulator tested their reactions on an erratic roadway as they were pressed to answer a barrage of text message questions on a paired phone.

“People can’t focus on two different things at the same time,” Mr. Mack said.

As they drove, instructors stood over them, reminding them of the legal consequences of dangerous driving, which in the case of drunk driving could be major fines and a major mark on their criminal record.

For many soldiers, attendance at the course was mandatory. Mr. Mack said he expected about 7,000 soldiers would cycle through the training by the end of this week. Civilian workers on post also took part in the training.

Staff Sgt. Bruce-Lee A. Hernandez, who drives a motorcycle, said the training affirmed his defensive driving maneuvers around other vehicles.

“They can barely see you as is,” he said. “If they’re drunk, it’s 20 times worse.”

With soldiers expected to head home for block leave in a matter of weeks, Mr. Mack said that the training was even more critical. Their knowledge could be put to the test as they celebrate with their family and friends.

“It’s not just here, it could help them anywhere they’re at,” he said.

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