State officials unveil impaired driving simulator program

Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement tool to be used at schools, organizations
October 19, 2021

State officials launched Delaware’s first impaired driving simulator program Oct. 14 at the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement in Dover.

The simulator program allows drivers to experience what can happen when they operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or distracted by a cellphone. Vision, braking and steering are impacted by the various levels of impairment and demonstrate the dangers in a virtual training scenario. 

DATE Director Jon Yeomans said the program will be available to schools, Delaware Department of Education, statewide driver education programs, community groups, law enforcement agencies and members of the alcohol industry.

“We had a vision about this program several years ago,” Yeomans said. “As an alcohol law enforcement agency, we felt it was important to be creative and engaging when addressing impaired and distracted driving, mainly with our youth, but also exposing our alcohol industry members to the dangers associated with overservice of alcohol to patrons and/or minors.”

Yeoman said funding from a Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Blueprints for the Community grant, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety and the Attorney General’s Office made the program possible.

“I can say in my law enforcement experience, which spans 35 years, this is the most realistic simulation I have ever seen,” Yeomans said.

The program also presents pursuit scenarios for law enforcement and first responder training, Yeomans said.

Office of Highway Safety Director Kimberly Chesser said drivers often overestimate their ability to drive after drinking; she said simulator users will be able to realize how much alcohol impacts their driving while in a safe environment.

In Delaware last year, Chesser said, more than 1,000 crashes involved impaired drivers, including 47 fatalities. Officers made 4,000 DUI arrests last year, and they have made 3,400 arrests so far this year, she said.

Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Nathaniel McQueen Jr. said the simulator will help drivers adopt healthy behaviors and make better decisions on the road and throughout life.

“This program will have tremendous impact on underage drinking, impaired driving and driver safety throughout the state,” McQueen said. “Impaired driving remains prevalent on our roadways. Much like aggressive driving or other dangerous behaviors, impaired driving is entirely preventable. This project will give us one more proactive tool to educate our citizens on dangerous and impaired driving, especially our young drivers.”

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, who tested out the simulator herself, said incorporating the simulator into safety programs will enforce the state’s drive sober message.

“The goal and mission of government is general safety and welfare,” Hall-Long said. 

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