Red Deer Rebel hockey players looked like they were falling down drunk on Monday morning.
Blame the goggles they were wearing.
The goggles, simulating visual impairment from alcohol and/or drugs, were part of the Alberta Motor Association’s Fatal Vision Hockey Challenge demonstration held on the ice at the Centrium.
Left winger Turner Elson, 19, said he couldn’t control his feet or shoot the puck wearing the goggles.
“You can’t see anything that you’re doing. You can’t even think to move your feet right,” said Elson, one of four Rebels who participated in the challenge to help educate drivers on the dangers of drinking.
He said even his ability to make decisions was impaired.
Shelley Dallas-Smith, injury prevention specialist with Alberta Health Services, said the challenge showed that visual impairment by drugs or alcohol impacts other senses like cognitive processing and motor skills.
The goggle-wearing hockey players also tended to miss the net by shooting too far left.
“It has to do with your co-ordination and your ability to process information. Typically people will either drive to the left, or in this case shoot to the left,” Dallas-Smith said.
Driving too far left means impaired drivers have a tendency to drive across the median and into oncoming traffic, she said.
“If you are trying to be calm and trying to stay in the middle of the road, I guarantee you’re not. You’re going to be veering off the road,” Elson said.
He couldn’t believe how difficult it was to perform drills on the ice and will be warning his friends not to get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking.
In Alberta between 2005 and 2009, an average of 115 people were killed and more than 1,800 injured in collisions each year involving at least one driver who consumed alcohol prior to the crash.
Red Deer City RCMP Sgt. Bob Bell, in charge of traffic services, said using the Rebels to demonstrate the effects of impairment was a good choice.
“These guys are young. They’ve got good eyesight, good co-ordination and they are used to using the puck so it’s surprising how much it affected their abilities to stick handle and shoot,” Bell said.
As role models for young people in the community, he’d like to see the Rebels spread the message.
“The more information and education you do, hopefully you reduce the incidents of drinking and driving and collisions and injury.”
AMA partnered with Safe Communities of Central Alberta, Alberta Health Services, Red Deer Rebels and RCMP on the Fatal Vision campaign.