Spring Grove Police Officer Tyler Heiden pointed the direction that senior Tara Solberg should drive the vehicle through the cones. Solberg was wearing fatal vision goggles which impaired her sight mimicking what it would be like to drive under the influence. PHOTO: DESCHLER/SG HERALD
Spring Grove Police Officer Tyler Heiden pointed the direction that senior Tara Solberg should drive the vehicle through the cones. Solberg was wearing fatal vision goggles which impaired her sight mimicking what it would be like to drive under the influence. PHOTO: DESCHLER/SG HERALD
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"My best friend gave me the best advice. He said each day's a gift and not a given right. .... If today was your last day and tomorrow was too late, could you say good-bye to yesterday?" These lyrics from the 2009 Nickelback song eerily played during a video presented by the Spring Grove Police Department showing the realities of what can happen when a driver is distracted for even a brief moment or when a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Spring Grove Police officer Tyler Heiden along with Caledonia Police Officer Jackie Heiden and Minnesota State Patrol officer Troy Christianson conducted a Sober Driving clinic for the juniors and seniors at Spring Grove High School on Thursday.

"One of the reasons we wanted to do this clinic is to make the kids aware of the dangers of distracted driving, driving under the influence, and the importance of wearing seatbelts," explained SGPD officer Heiden. "We thought doing it just before prom and graduation - two big celebrations for these kids - would be appropriate timing."

The students watched the video, "Young Forever" provided by the Minnesota State Patrol. The video, sometimes a bit graphic, showed photos and footage from actual accidents that were the result of distracted driving. The students watched the video in silence with some covering their mouths with a gasp when an accident occurred on the screen.

Interviews in the video with teens involved in the accidents were also a very powerful part of the video. One interviewee pointedly said "each time you get in a car, you are making decisions that can dramatically affect your life and the lives of others." Another interviewee emotionally described an accident that he was in and how he was still alive because he had on his seatbelt while others in the vehicle hadn't been so lucky.

Following the video, the high school students ventured outside where they donned fatal vision goggles to test how drugs and alcohol affect their perception of driving and walking. SGPD Officer Heiden borrowed the City of Houston's side-by-side ATV for the students to drive through a cone path with the goggles on.

Comments from the students included that getting into the vehicle and finding the gas and brake pedal were quite difficult because everything was blurry or they were dizzy and that maneuvering through the cones was difficult because their perception was off. One student commented that he was trying to listen to the officer explain to him what to do for the field sobriety test but he couldn't tell which person to look at because there were two people in front of him!

Minnesota State Patrol Officer Christianson explained to the students that the divided attention test works because the person has to multi-task - keep their hands at their sides, put one foot off the ground with their foot bent, etc. "People can't do that when they're not sober, so that's why the test works."

The students laughed as they could not walk a straight line with the goggles on. They also couldn't believe how dizzy they felt while wearing different types of goggles or how difficult it was to just stand. Even if they were joking around, it appeared to make an impression on them.

"If this clinic impacts just a couple of the kids, that's important and that is what matters," added Christianson.