LUMBERTON — Detective Duane Hunter hangs on tight to the top of a golf cart as State Farm agent Corbin Eddings speeds through a course of orange cones.
“He’s all right, he’s all right, he told me so,” Hunter yells to laughing bystanders as Eddings, wearing a set of vision-impairing “beer goggles,” runs over four cones in a row.
The course, sponsored by State Farm and supported by the Lumberton Police Department, was designed to simulate the dangers of driving while intoxicated and was one of two set up Saturday at the Twin Oaks plaza on Fayetteville Road. In the other course, participants responded to questions posed by 1st Sgt. Ardeen Hunt of the state Highway Patrol with text messages as they maneuvered the golf cart through tightly-spaced cones, which were meant to represent people.
“It’s fun, but it makes you nervous,” Eddings said of driving the course while wearing the goggles. “Honestly, when you first put them on it’s a little disorienting. Everything gets off-centered…when I was through, I was nauseated. I was dizzy the whole trip.”
The courses were part of State Farm’s “Celebrate My Drive,” a nationwide event that gave teenage drivers the chance to win prizes and money for their school. The Lumberton Police Department also received a $2,500 grant to use toward their scholarship program, according to State Farm agent Josh Whitley, who has an office in Lumberton.
“It’s just an initiative by State Farm to try to show teenage drivers that it’s a great thing to get a license, but it also comes with great responsibility,” he said.
Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which at 55 mph is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field blind, according to distraction.gov, a website devoted to statistics of distracted driving. According to Mothers against Drunk Driving, 28 people in the United States die every day as a result of drunk driving crashes.
Hunter said that while the courses can’t replicate real-world scenarios such as “somebody running out in front of the car” or “somebody changing lanes right in front of the car,” they help to demonstrate the effects that drinking or sending text messages have on a person’s driving.
“This really gives them a feel for what happens when you’re texting,” Chief Mike McNeill said as he watched a teenager flatten cones under the golf cart’s tires. “…Really, you need to keep your eyes on the road. You might know where you’re going, but if a car stops in front of you, how are you going to stop?”
“Everybody says ‘oh I can do it, I can handle it, it’s not a problem,’ but now he knows what alcohol will do to his vision,” Hunter said of 14-year-old Brant Eddings, Corbin’s son, who also drove the course while wearing the goggles.
“Too many,” Eddings said when asked how many cones he hit. “I didn’t expect it to be that bad.”
“You can have all the commercials and speeches and classes you want, but unless you show somebody, it doesn’t actually sink in,” Hunter said.