HPD Officer Richard Rodriguez is standing in the middle of a typical office conference room, talking to about a dozen people at Fidelity Exploration and Production.
“Ok, so now I’ve got to pick on somebody. You guys have an intern, right? (Laughter)”
Intern Chris Howard sheepishly steps to the front of the room and puts on the goggles that Officer Rodriguez hands him.
Officer Rodriguez: “How you doing, young man?”
Chris Howard: “I’m doing well.”
Rodriguez: “I’m Police Officer Rodriguez, Houston Police Department, I’m stopping you because you drove over the curb over there. Have you been drinking?”
Rodriguez: “Ok, come over here. I want you to stand right here at this…can you see that line right there?”
Rodriguez: “Ok, I’m going to ask you to — you’re going to walk — and you can do heel to toe or if you can’t do that at least just walk on the line. Go ahead.”
Howard stumbles down the line.
“This is what we see all the time. They think they’re doing fine, but they’re not.”
Rodriguez has just demonstrated the effects of alcohol on Howard’s vision and judgment.
“It looked like the line was arced pretty bad over to the left. And I was looking down trying to make sure my foot was anywhere near it and it didn’t feel anything like what I was seeing.”
The goggles throw off your equilibrium and depth perception. And this particular pair is set to simulate only moderate intoxication, just over the legal limit.
“When they put them on, they feel like they’re inebriated. They function like they’re under the influence of alcohol. They can’t walk right, they can’t do regular things like find their driver’s license — they might jumble through it. So it’s a very good — gives you a very good idea of what people look like when they’re under the influence of alcohol.”
Roughly 115,000 people are killed every year in this country in drunk driving accidents. Rodriguez tells this group that the most dangerous person they’re likely to come in contact with is the teacher, lawyer, student or neighbor who gets behind the wheel after drinking.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.