Weather Forecast


Last week’s lesson at HHS: Don’t drink and drive

Zach Elder performs some of the other tests a police officer would have a drunk driver do during a field sobriety test. The simulated test was directed by Neville Amondson. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx

For teens just starting to learn how to drive, some lessons are best taught without books. That’s why Hastings High School teacher Nathan Neuman brings in speakers. One talks about insurance and what to do in the case of an accident. The school liaison officer talks about the law and what to do if pulled over by police.

“We try to get as many other speakers or expert speakers to come in and talk to the kids,” Neuman said.

Last week, Hastings resident Neville Amondson spoke to Neuman’s driver’s ed class about drunk driving. Amondson’s story is a sobering one. In his 20s he got drunk at a party and on his way home sent another vehicle crashing into the ditch. He never even realized it until he pulled over a little farther down the road. About 10 years later, a drunk driver hit his mother, who had been walking along the road.

“It’s a sobering experience for most students,” Neuman said. “It’s kind of a heavy presentation.”

With other speakers, the students usually have lots of questions.

“For the most part (they were) generally pretty quiet when the presentation got done,” Neuman said.

This is the second time that Amondson has spoken to Hastings High School students about his experiences with drunk driving. He started speaking out around 1994 in Eau Claire, Wis., where he lived at the time. When he moved to Hastings in 2012, he reached out to HHS.

One of the points that Amondson made was that drunk drivers don’t always realize how impaired they really are. So the day following his presentation, he returned to the class with a pair of special goggles that simulate what would happen to a person’s vision with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08, the legal limit. Each of the students put the goggles on and attempted to walk a straight line in the same way they would have to in a field sobriety test.

“It definitely disorients you quite a bit, as far as going from having full control of your senses … to not being able to see clearly and having blurred vision,” Neuman said.

The goggles make it difficult to focus on a single object and give the wearer double vision, allowing each student to experience how much alcohol affects coordination in a safe environment.

“A lot of times, students don’t necessarily realize how much it affects them,” Neuman said.

Some students were able to follow the line without much trouble. Some found it difficult to balance. Others managed to walk fairly well, but couldn’t keep track of where the line was.

Amondson brought two goggles. The first was clear, but the second was darker, simulating the effects of alcohol at night. Most students had a more difficult time following the line using the night goggles.

By having Amondson share his experiences and guiding the students through the drunk driving goggle demonstration, Neuman hopes that the impacts of drunk driving will stick with his students. Bookwork isn’t always memorable, and many of the students learning to drive now won’t be faced with the decision of whether or not to drink and drive for several years.

“I hope they kind of enjoyed the experience and they’re going to remember it,” Neuman said.

HHS driver’s ed

Driver’s education is relatively new to HHS. Although Hastings Community Education has a driver’s education program and there are a number of private driving schools in Hastings and the surrounding area, getting to the classes wasn’t always practical for some families.

Two years ago, Community Education partnered with the high school to offer the classroom portion of the training as an elective during the regular school day. Legally, new drivers have to complete 30 hours of classroom training as well as the behind-the-wheel requirements. At HHS, students get about twice as much classroom training as the state requires. The behind-the-wheel portion is done with Community Education.

“It seems to be pretty well received by the students and parents,” Neuman said.