Local Police Officer Answers Beginning Drivers’ Questions

By: Hannah Johnson and Nadia Keith

Officer Van Meadows came to Newnan High School in early October to speak to Driver’s Education classes about driving under the influence along with other driving laws.

Officer Meadows has been working for the Newnan Police Department for eight years, and in those eight years, he has been in the traffic unit for five years. He is a part of the group of officers that assist with traffic and gives traffic citations such as: speeding, driving while intoxicated and other motor vehicle related accidents and incidents on the road.

By coming to the school, he allowed students to ask any questions they had about teen driving laws, driving while intoxicated, drugs, gun laws and many other traffic related questions.

Officer Meadows informed the soon-to-be teenage drivers of what to do if they are pulled over in a traffic stop. He urged students to just be calm, stay in the car, keep your hands on the steering wheel and answer questions directly and honestly.

Students just beginning to drive do not always understand why certain laws are in place, so getting to talk to a police officer directly allowed students to better understand their responsibilities on the road.

Many students asked questions that applied to their lives behind the wheel.
A student asked why you can not drive with friends until you have had your license six months. Officer Meadows explained how young drivers are still learning how to drive and, more importantly, how to drive alone. Young drivers do not need the distraction of friends talking to you or trying to show you something on their phone.

To put this into perspective for a teenage audience, Officer Meadows gave an example.
If, for instance, you were involved in a car accident and had four people in your car, but you only had your license for two months. Anyone who was injured is your responsibility, but your insurance most likely will not cover the other passengers. You do not want to be in that situation.

Officer Meadows encouraged the students to always be aware of their surroundings while driving. Along with staying vigilant, students should always be cautious of who they get into a car with. As Officer Meadows explained, it is best to keep yourself out of bad situations, because you never know what some people have in their car or what they may leave in your car.

“If anything happens and you get pulled over, the police can search your car if they suspect there are any drugs,” Officer Meadows stated. “If no one takes responsibility, everyone will be charged.”

Beyond helping minimize distractions for drivers, police officers are trained to recognize the effects of alcohol, drugs and other substances that impair a person’s driving ability.

When a police officer pulls a person over they can often smell the alcohol on a person or in a car just from standing at the window, and officers notice when the person is acting intoxicated. When officers suspect a person of being intoxicated, they require an individual to perform a variety of tests to assess whether the person is in fact intoxicated.

In the situation of assessing whether someone is intoxicated or not, the police officer would make the person walk in a straight line as well as stand with their eyes closed and their arms out. Performing these tasks would signal the bad balance and vision associated with intoxication.

Students were given the opportunity to see the impact of being intoxication by being given a special set of goggles.

Students were given the chance to put on goggles that impaired their vision similarly to how their sense would be impaired if they were under the influence of drugs. Officer Meadows then ran three sobriety tests: finger touch, throw and catch a ball and the straight line test.

Officer Van Meadows practices the finger touch test with students wearing goggles that simulate the effects of intoxication.

After using the goggles, Katelyn Spivey, a student in driver’s education, explained how she feels more educated about the laws of driving and laws related to alcohol and drug impairment. Spivey said the goggles blurred everything together when she was trying to walk. They caused her eyes to feel cross eyed, and her vision was greatly impaired.

Students wearing the special goggles try to walk in a straight line in the Main Media Center.

Another student in driver’s education, Noah Herring said, “Driving impaired is complicated and extremely difficult. Everything was off balance and the goggles dramatically changed my view of drinking and driving.”

Because Officer Meadows spent time with Driver’s Education students, teenage drivers were able to walk away with a new outlook on things that could seriously impact their futures and safety while driving.