The U.S. Army has invested in the development of a drunk driving simulator to help soldiers adjust to the stresses of returning home, but Mothers Against Drunk Driving isn't too happy about it.
In October 2007, Professor Jim Parker and students at the University of Calgary released Booze Cruise, a simulator in which players attempt to drive home from a bar in various states of drunkenness. All parts of the process are mimicked, from delayed reaction times and blurred vision to property damage, dead pedestrians and prison sentences. "What we're trying to show them is it's not possible to think yourself sober," Parker told the Globe and Mail. "Some people believe that if you just focus, you can drive really well."
After releasing the project, Parker and his team began seeking support for the project to help fund improvements while still keeping it available to schools and anti-drunk-driving campaigns. Help eventually came from what was probably an unexpected corner: The U.S. Army. As many as 27 soldiers have been killed in drunk driving incidents in each of the past five years, and while all soldiers will have access to the game, Parker said he was told the Army wanted it primarily as a "re-education tool" for soldiers returning home from Iraq, many of whom turned 21, the legal drinking age in the U.S., while overseas.
"They come back and they also haven't driven a car in two years. So they can drink, they can drive, and bingo, they get into trouble," Parker said. "The goals are pretty pure here. They're trying to keep their guys from getting hurt."
"The concept itself is very interesting to us, and we find it has what we believe is very strong potential in reaching out to our young soldiers in an interactive format that strengthens those types of skills," added Jim Yonts, a former Army Colonel who's now the public information officer at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center.
But while the Army hopes to do some good with Booze Cruise, another high-profile group has expressed surprising disdain for it: Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada says it has no interest in making use of the simulator, which it claims teaches players to how to drive blotto. "We've spent decades telling people not to drink and drive, and this simulator, one of the skills it teaches is to drink so much, and then drive," said MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie.