MARIETTA — Lassiter High School junior Harper Coombs stumbled and struggled to take nine steps, one foot in front of the other, as Cobb police officer Fernando Pharr asked her to. That would be enough to determine she’d had too much to drink, Pharr told the crowd of students who had gathered to watch.

“It was really impairing. One side of my body was heavier, so when I was walking on the line, it was hard to keep my balance. And plus, with the goggles, I couldn’t even see the line. It was completely curved,” Coombs said, after taking off the drunk goggles, earmuffs, ankle weight and joint limiters she had been wearing. “I was falling. (Pharr) had to carry me across the line. ... If I were to drive like that, I couldn’t even make it across the parking lot, let alone go into town or anything.”

Lassiter High School’s student organization HOSA-Future Health Professionals club teamed up last week with the Cobb County Police Department and Ford Motor Co. to try to open students’ eyes to the dangers of underage drinking and driving. The event came weeks before Lassiter High School’s prom, the timing of which Future Health Professionals President Hansinee Mayani said was intentional.

“I think this helps people think before they drink and think before they drive and puts a little medical twist behind it about the realities of what drinking and driving does,” Mayani said.

Students listened to a 20-minute presentation from Cobb police before heading out to the parking lot to watch fellow students try to pass field sobriety tests or complete tasks like catching a tennis ball while wearing Ford’s drunk suit. The suit consisted of an ankle and wrist weight on opposite sides of the body, wrappings on knees, elbows and the neck to limit mobility and earmuffs to impair hearing and delay reaction time and goggles that produce “ghost images” and give tunnel vision.

Jeremy Smith, general manager of Jim Tidwell Ford in Kennesaw and local spokesman for the company, said they offer the suit for events partnering with the Cobb County Police Department and were happy to hear Lassiter High School was planning the event. Smith said Ford offers “Driving Skills for Life” sessions, which use the suits across the country.

“Ford looks for ways to partner with local law enforcement and local communities and schools to try and find ways to share this information and kind of shed some light on the experience,” he said.

Future Health Professionals Vice President Genaveve Veliky drove the message home at the end of the event, when she and her mock-date Neel Iyer changed into a prom attire, strapped on the drunk gear and got behind the wheel of a stationary orange Ford Mustang. Cobb Police Department’s Pharr pulled his cruiser in behind the Mustang, lights flashing and re-enacted a DUI traffic stop.

“The importance of this is education — making students aware of the dangers of alcohol consumption and how it impairs their ability to make sound judgments,” Pharr said. “Especially around this time of year when we’re looking at prom coming up, spring (break) coming up and potentially kids going off to college.”

Lassiter High School will hold its prom on March 23.


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