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Demonstrating the dangers of intoxication

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Fun, interactive event sheds light on DWI awareness

Scores of first responder and supporting agencies gathered on the northeast end of the Rio West Mall parking lot June 8 for the 2019 McKinley County DWI Awareness Day.

The event title captured the dangers of Driving While Intoxicated – or as widely known – DWI.

Many visitors took the opportunity to participate in different activities such as ENDWI virtual reality, fatal vision goggles and golf cart course, and a paintball demonstration. The event drew in more than 300 visitors.

Visitors also picked up vital information from vendors on DWI awareness from the local DWI Task Force, county and city fire departments, behavioral health providers, and Cibola County DWI program, to name a few.

The program was dormant for the past couple years due to funding issues and administrative challenges. Working to revive it, McKinley County DWI Program Manager Maura Schanefelt said this year’s awareness day kicked off with a whole new crew with the goal of making it a yearly event.

“We want to give the community an idea of what we do,” Schanefelt said. “We have new information and sometimes the word DWI can be misleading, but if you have a substance issue that you feel like [you]  or perhaps someone else has, we have resources that we can provide for them. The program offers alcohol assessments that one can take if the individual feels like they need it in their life.”

Meanwhile, first responders, such as members of the Gallup Fire Department, eagerly talked to kids and adults alike on what they do when responding to a DWI incident.

“Visitors got the chance to look at a DWI crash vehicle,” she said. “We had it placed around town for about a month, set up in different places. There were different interactive activities for everyone to take part in.”

Cibola County DWI Program Coordinator Michael Dodds developed a unique way of showing how alcohol affects one’s motor skills. The group had set up a paintball shooting gallery where they translate the difference being sober including motor functions and impaired motor functions.

“It was done to show the dangers of drinking even from regular activities, fun [from participating in] games, to driving vehicles.” Dodds said.

The demonstration was funded by Cibola County and partnered with Extinction Paintball, and Cougar Enterprises, both out of Grants, N.M., and was a first for Gallup.

“We’ve actually done this several times in Grants with people who’ve never experienced shooting a paintball gun,” he said, “They actually get their first chance at shooting a paintball launcher and the challenge of hitting targets. We’ve even put in moving targets. Then we put goggles on them and they get to experience as their perception changes of what it’s like to be impaired.”

Dodds has seen the positive effect of this demonstration by displaying it prior to high school homecoming dances. Afterwards, he noted, the program had zero calls regarding DWI’s.

“This totally changes the mindset of daily activities,” he said.

Rudy Midge, of Yatahey, N.M., was speechless when he tried the paintball demonstration and discovered how alcohol can affect his daily activities.

“It really opened up my eyes, so to speak, when I shot the paintball gun and then tried it again with the goggles on,” he said. “Just knowing how much my motor functions can be altered with alcohol spoke volumes to me. It was funny because I was shooting way off and thinking I was okay at what I was doing and the simulation of wearing those goggles really made me think.”

Being no stranger to bringing DWI awareness was Dolly Otero, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who is the lead victim service specialist. Otero covers the entire state of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation, speaking on the consequences to families and the community.

“Our goal was to be here in the community letting them know that MADD is here for everyone,” she said. “We want to help families that have been affected by DWI.”

For more information on the McKinley County DWI prevention program call (505) 726-8249; for MADD visit www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK MADD; for Paintball demonstration contact (505) 285-2585.

By Dee Velasco
For the Sun