A soldier spends a few hours at a local bar. He's forgotten how much he's had to drink, but says to his buddies, "Hey, I've only had a few. I'm good to go." So the soldier gets into his vehicle, starts the ignition and begins to drive.


A soldier spends a few hours at a local bar. He's forgotten how much he's had to drink, but says to his buddies, "Hey, I've only had a few. I'm good to go." So the soldier gets into his vehicle, starts the ignition and begins to drive.
At first, everything seems normal. He keeps his foot on the pedal, accelerating very carefully, perhaps with one eye closed so he isn't bothered with double vision. But as the alcohol makes its way fully into his system, his reaction time slows. He drives erratically, nearly side-swiping a taxi. He passes a pedestrian; the vehicle's wheels spread a plume of dust over everything. There is the sound of gravel, a thud.
Then comes disaster.
The soldier makes a right turn going over 60 miles per hour and slams into a motorcyclist, setting into motion a tragic chain of events. There is no going back, no undoing the poor decisions that will change lives forever. Unless, that is, you are participating in a scenario, a replication played out on high-tech driving equipment with three screens that offers soldiers — and others who attended — the experience of driving drunk, sponsored by the Army Substance Abuse Program.
The man behind the wheel, the man who "killed" the motorcyclist, was Pfc. Keenan Summerall.
"I just wasn't paying attention to my blind spots or to what was left or right of me," he said. "I tried to switch lanes and lost control. It happened really fast."
That's how accidents happen, said Andrew Tipton, the man behind the simulation and program, called SALT, for "Save a Life Tour."
Tipton staged an hour-long presentation at the Warrior Community Club May 22 on the dangers and consequences of getting behind the wheel after drinking, first with a video showing real consequences: Bodies laid out in the street, twisted and beyond recognition; a body sliced in half.
"Seeing that really brought home what drinking and driving can do," said Spc. Kristy Delph. "It's not glorified for me anymore. It's real and ugly."
The video also showed mothers collapsing after seeing their children bloodied and hooked up to tubes and monitors. It showed fathers and siblings crying.
"I like the emotional aspect of this video," Tipton said. "Some of you may be thousands of miles away from your families. You don't want your mom or dad to show up at a hospital because you've been drinking and driving; you don't want your family to get that phone call from a police officer in the middle of the night."
Tipton explained that, after a soldier's first "successful" drive home after a night drinking, the soldier's body receives a reward from the brain. This reward convinces the driver that driving while under the influence is no big deal; it is, in fact, easy.
"Everyone knows that drinking and driving is dangerous, but everyone thinks they're the exception, that they won't get caught," Tipton said. "Or they think, 'I'll only have a few drinks. I know a lot of soldiers who say 'I stick to three beers so I can drive home.' That's still drinking and driving, and it's dangerous."
Tipton emphasized that getting caught is not a matter of if, but of when.
"Sooner or later, you're going to get pulled over and someone's going to get hurt," he said. "It might be you, your family, or someone else.
"Drink responsibly," he said. "Have a designated driver. If you want to drink, drink. But you don't want to drive afterwards. You don't want to lose that patch on your chest. You've worked too hard for that.
"If you've gone to Afghanistan and have people there trying to kill you and you come back here and get hurt or killed from a DUI, it just doesn't make sense," Tipton said. "People are trying to kill you over there. Don't kill yourself driving drunk over here. For soldiers who drink and drive: That's hypocritical. You're trying to save people. Whether or not you're in that uniform, you are always a soldier. You always represent the United States. So to make it simple: Drink responsibly."
The phrase "drink responsibly" can be confusing, said Mary Thompson, prevention coordinator for Fort Polk's Army Substance Abuse Program.
"It's easy to ask, 'What is normal drinking?'" she said. "Everyone has their norm. Some may drink a twelve pack a night and think everyone else must be doing that too. Some drink three beers a night and think that's normal and okay. So I'm hoping we explain a little better what 'drinking responsibly' means."
"Thinking of drinking responsibly in terms of the numbers "0-3," zero means don't do drugs or drink. Just don't do it. It's just that simple. One is one drink in an hour. You never want to have more than one drink in an hour. That's considered a low risk choice on your part. Two is two drinks a day. That's a low-risk choice. Once you switch into high risk drinking, things change. When fights happen in barracks, when people drive and drink, how many drinks have they had? Two or eight?"
Thompson explained that three drinks in any given day, as opposed to eight, is also another low-risk choice.
 "High risk and low risk choices have a long term effect," she said.
Tipton, in turn, explained the effects of alcohol on the body. First, he said, after one drink, peripheral vision shrinks up to 10 percent. After three or four drinks, they shrinks up to 32 percent per eye.
"That's why the police shine lights into a suspected drunk drivers' eyes," he said. "Your pupils should be big to let in light. If they're pinpointed, that's an indicator that you've been drinking."
The startling fact is that it takes only one drink for this side effect to happen.
Beyond the eyes, alcohol affects the central nervous system, slowing reaction time, which in turn, causes swerving on the road — this is an obvious indicator to police officers of a drunk driver.
The program also featured a video segment depicting families flying through the air in slow motion at the same time that their loved ones were dying due to drunk driving. They somersault, free-fall and float because their lives have changed irrevocably, just as much as the family member in the accident.
"You young soldiers, remember your moms and dads and how they'd feel, if nothing else. Older soldiers, think of your families," Tipton said. "Drunk driving and its consequences affect everyone - not just the driver."
One young soldier in attendance, Spc. Arnold Goerski, said, "There are a lot of young people in the Army who like to party," said Spc. Arnold Goerski. "This knowledge they're giving us is important. It will now be in our sub-consciousness, and maybe that will save a life. I hope it does."
That's Tipton's mission.
"If we save even one person's life or make a person think twice and make the right decision, we've done our job," he said.