Friday, 17 May 2013 09:50

Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience vehicle based in S.E. Alta., first of its kind in province

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Diana Sirivath, with Brain Injury Relearning Services takes SIDNE for a spin as Ann Pudwell, a health promotion facilitator with Alberta Health Services and vice-chairperson of Southeastern Alberta Traffic Safety Coalition, changes the go-kart's operation to impaired. Diana Sirivath, with Brain Injury Relearning Services takes SIDNE for a spin as Ann Pudwell, a health promotion facilitator with Alberta Health Services and vice-chairperson of Southeastern Alberta Traffic Safety Coalition, changes the go-kart's operation to impaired. Photo by Rose Sanchez

Southern Albertans can gain a better understanding of the effects of alcohol or distractions behind the wheel with a new tool that is the first of its kind in the province.


A specialized go-kart known as the Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience (SIDNE) has been purchased by the Southeastern Alberta Traffic Safety Coalition (SEATS) thanks to a $17,000 grant from the Alberta Traffic Safety Fund. SEATS partners include the Southeastern Alberta Traffic Safety Alliance Society, Brain Injury Relearning Services, Redcliff RCMP, the Department of Commercial Vehicles and Alberta Health Services.
“We want people to understand what can happen when they drive while they’re distracted or impaired, but in a safe environment, said Ann Pudwell, a health promotion facilitator with Alberta Health Services and vice-chairperson of SEATS in a news release. “The goal is to educate people about the potential impacts so they’ll make better, safer choices when confronted with this decision in real life.”
The battery-powered vehicle which can travel up to 13 km/hr can be driven by one person and there is room for a passenger. In normal mode, the driver can steer, brake and accelerate. A trained SIDNE operator uses a remote control to change the mode to impaired which causes delays in steering, braking and acceleration mimicking the delayed reactions of an impaired or distracted driver.
Both the driver and passenger must wear helmets and seatbelts and the driver must have a valid vehicle licence or learner’s permit.
“I think this is a fantastic tool,” said Randy Youngman, regional traffic safety consultant for southeast Alberta, at a media event to unveil the go-kart on May 10. “It gives us another tool in our toolbox.”
Educators already make use of fatal vision goggles, but SIDNE offers a practical, hands-on experience for operators.
“You can experience an impairment while you still have a clear mind and appreciate the effects of that impairment,” added Youngman.
He hopes all age groups can take advantage of the lessons to be learned from SIDNE.
“This is the first one in Alberta, which makes it even more exciting,” added Youngman, about the initiative.
Constable Scott McWhinnie, with the Redcliff RCMP detachment, was at the media event to see how the unit works. He has been working in the area for the past nine months and says for the most part, the younger drivers know not to drive if they have been drinking.
McWhinnie sees more problems with impaired driving by middle-aged men and women. He also sees a lot of distracted driving.
“I will stop people who I think have been drinking and I find out they were on their phone. It looks very similar (on the road).”
Sgt. Stacey Kesler, with the Medicine Hat Police Service, agrees younger people are getting the message.
“We’re now starting to see the benefits of education and prevention work that began 20 years ago,” Sgt. Kesler said in a news release. “Generations born in the 1980s seem to be getting the message and are making smarter choices by deciding not to drink and drive.”
SIDNE will be officially rolled out to the public at the My Connections resource fair in Redcliff May 30.
Community groups interested in having SIDNE at their public events can email ann.pudwell@albertahealth services.ca to make booking arrangements.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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