By Jason KUROSU
The Elks Lodge in Glendale hosted a class on alcohol awareness Thursday night that put its audience to the test. Five volunteers chosen by Glendale Police Officer Joe Allen were presented to the audience as possibly being under the influence of alcohol. The audience was tasked with determining which of the volunteers had indeed imbibed, as Allen and Torrance Police Officer Devin Chase put the five through a series of Standardized Field Sobriety tests, which police officers administer to motorists they suspect of driving while drunk.
The five subjects, of varying ages, sexes and ethnic backgrounds, each initially walked around a table, circling back to their chairs at the front of the room.
“Now most of them seem to be fine walking in front of you, right?” Allen asked the audience. “But when we really start making bad decisions is even though they feel okay, they feel they can walk around this room, when they get behind the wheel of a car they have now placed themselves in violation of the law and placed themselves and someone else in danger.”
Allen and Chase then administered sobriety tests to better establish the culprits.
Ashley, 22, was asked to stand on one leg, with one foot out and hands to her side while counting to 30. She did so, but she did not fully follow the instructions, which included looking at her toe. Ashley looked towards the wall, which Chase said helps inebriated people orient themselves.
“The little things she did wrong indicate to me that she may be unsafe to drive,” said Chase.
Ramon, 36, was asked to take nine steps, heel to toe, in a line and then pivot back on his left foot and take nine steps back. Ramon completed the test, but did not pivot on the correct foot and paused noticeably between turning to walk the other direction.
“These are the subtle things we look for,” said Allen.
The one volunteer who escaped the audience’s scrutiny was Ed, who appeared fairly capable and composed before the audience. After being asked who of the five they would allow to drive them home after a party, the audience chose Ed.
In fact, Ed consumed nine Jack and Cokes over the course of three hours. He had consumed more food than the other volunteers, but regardless, he had a BAC – blood alcohol content – of over 0.08%.
All five volunteers had been driven to the Elks Lounge at around 2 p.m. Monday afternoon and drank until the class started at 6 p.m. Each had different beverages and had eaten various amounts of food before and during the drinking.
Allen hoped to deter people from relying on personal, store-bought breathalyzer tests, which he said can be misleading.
“Blood alcohol absorbs slowly into the bloodstream,” said Allen. “Even though you can have your last drink hours before, your alcohol level continues increasing.”
Furthermore, Allen urged the audience not to measure their ability to drive based solely on their blood alcohol content number.
“There’s too much emphasis on 0.08,” said Allen, referring to the legal limit. “You can be arrested for driving while impaired, regardless of whether you are under the limit. We’re looking for impairment, not a number.”