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Tipping a few back in the name of science

Farmington police officer Pete Zajac performed a field sobriety test on a volunteer during a controlled drinking event put on by the Minnesota State Patrol, Dakota County Sheriffs Department and local police departments.

Police officers turned into bartenders and Rosemount’s Fire Station #2 turned into a makeshift party room Monday afternoon. All in the name of science and safer roads.

The controlled drinking event, put on by Dakota County, local police departments and the Minnesota State Patrol, was meant to demonstrate the effects of alcohol and the degree to which it can impair performance behind the wheel. A group of volunteers drank from 4 to 7 Monday and underwent occasional field sobriety tests throughout the evening to determine their level of intoxication.

Participants were broken down by gender and body type to make it clearer how different people are affected by alcohol.

Dakota County chief deputy Tim Leslie said the idea was to get people’s attention with a message about drinking and driving in advance of the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. On St. Patrick’s Day 2011 more than one third of fatalities from motor vehicle crashes were connected to drunk driving.

“I think it was a different way to approach a subject that’s in the public eye,” Leslie said. “We tried a different approach. Maybe this will catch somebody’s eye.”

The volume level in the room went up steadily as volunteers — sheriff’s deputies, park rangers and mounted patrol members, among others —continued to drink. Volunteers laughed as they swayed on one foot during sobriety tests. Some were surprised how early in the afternoon they gave signs that they’d had too much to drink.

In addition to the free drinks, Monday’s event featured a game of bean bag toss played with goggles to simulate drunkenness and a go-kart used to simulate the effects of alcohol on drivers.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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