HOUSTON - During the University of Houston’s spring break last year, TxDot says alcohol-related crashes killed 23 college-age drivers around Houston.
On Thursday, crews hit the UH campus to put the brakes on drunk driving.
“We're doing that by bringing our impaired dodgeball driving truck out here for them to enjoy,” says Deidrea George, TxDOT public information officer.
The game is dodge ball with a twist. In the first round, sober students face off against a virtual reality opponent who’s throwing beach balls.
Then their avatar starts drinking and the response rate reflects that.
“Whoa! It’s so slow!” shouts UH sophomore Ariel Abudu, trying to avoid being hit. As she zigs and zags, her on-screen avatar lags after a couple drinks.
“What it shows is that when you're impaired, you're not able to react as quickly as you can react if you haven't been drinking,” George says.
Abudu says the message hit her much harder than the virtual beach balls.
“I thought even after having a few drinks, I would still be going the same pace,” she says. “But as the game progressed, I got slower and slower.”
Fellow UH sophomore Carter Rewarts learned the same lesson.
“By the very end of it, it was so hard to move out of the way,” he says. “There was almost a five-second difference in your movement.”
That delayed reaction was likely a factor in the impaired driving crashes that killed 23 people during spring break 2016.
“One is too many. Certainly, 23 is far too much,” George says.
Adds DPS Sgt. Stephen Woodard: “We're going to bust those numbers and bring them down. We want to ensure that our spring break is safe and fun. That's what this is all about.”
To review alternatives to drunk driving, visit soberrides.org.