Protecting Suffolk

Suffolk program teaches teens the risks of drunken, drugged driving

Skits and stories are used to inform young motorists of dangers as the prom, graduation and summer party season approach.

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini unveiled a program Monday aimed at educating high school students and their parents on the dangers of drunk, drugged and distracted driving.

The “Choices and Consequences” program uses skits, stories and examples of real tragedies to teach young motorists they put their lives — and the lives of others — in jeopardy when they drive while impaired or distracted, Sini said during a news conference at his offices in Hauppauge.

Last week, Sini’s office sent letters offering to conduct the program in every Suffolk school district.

“The program is tailored to young adults and their parents to discuss the real-life consequences that one bad decision involving drugs or alcohol or reckless driving can have upon all of our lives,” Sini said.

Det. James Spadaro of the district attorney’s office and a member of the team that will conduct the Choices and Consequences presentation, said he uses special goggles to show students how badly alcohol can affect their ability to drive — or even walk. Spadaro performed a roadside sobriety test — walking toe to heel — with ease. But he stumbled badly when he put on the goggles, which mimic the impact six alcoholic drinks can have on motor skills.

Choices and Consequences is based on an anti-drunk driving initiative created by officials in Brooklyn that also has been used and modified by Nassau County, Sini said. The Suffolk presentation adds a 2018 twist by addressing the opioid epidemic that Sini said has killed more than 200 people in the county under the age of 30 since January 2016.

The program includes a public-service announcement video from the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, or LICADD, called “Hey Charlie” that illustrates how quickly teens who experiment with marijuana and alcohol can become addicted to powerful and sometimes fatal opioids.

The first Choices and Consequences presentation was conducted last week at Deer Park High School, and other schools have expressed interest in the program, Sini said. Attendance was mandatory for Deer Park students planning on going to the school’s prom.

LICADD executive director Steve Chassman said it is important to teach young people about the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse before the start of the prom, graduation and summer party season.

“We know unhealthy and dangerous decisions increase exponentially in the summer months,” Chassman said.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for people between the ages of 15 and 24, Sini said.

“We need to educate, we need to raise awareness of the dangers of making bad decisions behind the wheel,” he said.

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