Students enjoy learning real stories of DWI patrol

by Tom Lopez

Officer David St. Cyr of the University Police Department administered several field sobriety tests and a Breathalyzer — and then he put the cuffs on.
“Christy, you are under arrest for driving while intoxicated,” he said.
Fortunately, this scene was only a simulation, part of Pioneer Hall’s Alcohol Awareness Week. Under supervision, residence hall advisers drank and St. Cyr measured their levels of intoxication.
St. Cyr was demonstrating the effect alcohol has on motor skills and illustrating the disempowering effect of wearing handcuffs. To emphasize his point, St. Cyr simulated a traffic stop with resident assistant Cindy Solinger, where he tested her, arrested her, then cuffed her. The purpose of this, he said, was to give the students a first-hand demonstration of the feeling of helplessness and imprisonment of an arrest.
“When you’re arrested for a DWI you lose all your freedoms,” he said.
It was a demonstration that proved effective, said Solinger, who had no idea she was going to be handcuffed. “It’s a very harsh reality,” she said. “It has a very sobering effect.”
St. Cyr told about 50 students the demonstration was meant as an information session for them, not a morality lesson.
“I’m not going to stand up here and preach about the evils of alcohol,” he said. “I’m here to give you some information so you can make your own decisions.”
The levels of intoxication reached by the six RAs ranged from .04 to .10, which is the legal limit of intoxication in Minn.
St. Cyr showed portions of a 48 Hours episode titled “Drunk or Sober,” then ushered the volunteer RAs into the residence hall lounge. He then administered a variety of tests in which the RAs had to walk nine steps heel-toe, trace an object with their eyes, and hold one foot up and count to 30.
He also took students through the entire process of an arrest, which will often include a trip to the detox center, the emergency room, or the Hennepin County jail.
Tallying all the costs, including impoundment, insurance rates, fines and lawyer fees, an arrest for driving while intoxicated costs $18,000, St. Cyr warned.
“Most people who are driving at .10 feel that they are perfectly fine and that there is nothing wrong with their driving,” St. Cyr said.
Jonathon Platz, an RA at Pioneer Hall and one of the coordinators of the event, said that the presentation was effective in demonstrating the fact that people who think they are alright are actually in no shape to drive.
“I think people have no idea how much drinking affects their reaction time and judgment,” he said. “That’s why we held this project.”
The sobriety tests were the fourth event of Alcohol Awareness Week. Other events have included programs about sexual violence and alcoholism. The week will end tonight with a dance in the Pioneer cafeteria.