I’ve been dying for something to write about lately and all of a sudden I am buzzed and I thought, duh, why don’t I write about why exactly I am buzzed?
Kind of a long story. Since I have a University of Iowa email address, I occasionally get emails from them telling me about research studies that are being conducted. So about a month ago, I got an email from the National Advanced Driving Simulator** calling for people within the ages of 21-35 who drink moderately to participate in a research study about drinking and driving. I thought to myself, “Self***, you are between the ages of 21 and 35 and you drink alcohol in a moderate fashion, you should sign up for this study and see if you get in.”
Crazy thing. I emailed back, signed up, and got a call back. I answered all the health/drinking screening questions and lo**** and behold, I was an acceptable candidate for this study. I set up an appointment for an in-person screening and went, did the urine test, a driving sign recognition test, they took height, weight, resting heart rate, asked me some questions about my driving habits and my drinking habits, and then we spent some time on this driving simulator. This is really what the study is all about, and they wanted me to get used to the simulator.
The sim itself is pretty cool, it is made up of four screens, 3 high-def HP computer monitors and one crappier computer monitor with no logo on it. 3 of the screens are on top where a car windshield would be, and the 4th crappy one is where your dashboard instruments would be, and that is what is displayed on it. The 3 high-def screens display the actual simulation environment where the subject is driving. I must say, for a simulator, it’s pretty realistic. Obviously the graphics are not real life, you are driving a simulator, but the way your brain interprets the 3 computer screens is crazy, it actually feels like you are driving. When cars pass you, you hear their motor get loud and then recede into the distance, thanks to effective mimicking of the Doppler Effect (nice .gif) by the simulation program. Plus they recreate the environment pretty well. The subject (for this study) drives along a rural country road at 55 MPH, and there are hills, nice cloud formations, the occasional Ford Taurus or USPS truck passes, and one or two lovely country farmhouses. Real great programming.
So the study consists of the subject coming in, driving the sim for 10 minutes to get used to it, then “dosing.” The dosing consists of putting on a nose plug and drinking two tall cups of Hawaiian Punch in 10 minutes. The trick is that they may or may not have put a certain amount of Everclear***** into the cups. You’re not supposed to know so as not to affect the results of the study. Ha. Give it three minutes and you know whether or not you’ve consumed their awful liquor. Plus the nose plug is horribly painful to wear, especially on a schnoz like this one.
After you’ve consumed the drinks, you sit for about an hour to and constantly take breathalyzer tests until you’ve reached a certain BAC. Once you hit their projected BAC (you aren’t supposed to know how much you’ve taken in for a particular session), you get to drive the sim. And not just drive it, you are put through a divided attention test. The sim looks like the windshield of a real car, and that includes both rear view mirrors. Right next to each mirror there is a little box, and occasionally through your drive there appears an orange arrow. If the arrow is pointing left or right (corresponding to the side it’s box is on), you are supposed to press a button on the steering wheel. It an arrow appears that is pointing up, you are supposed to press nothing, just keep driving as normal. Quick recap, you are driving along a rural country two-lane highway, cars occasionally pass, you are supposed to keep a steady pace of 55 MPH, as well as stay in your lane, and whenever an orange arrow appears that is pointing left or right you are supposed to hit your corresponding button. And I did mention that you are buzzed out of your brain correct?
And then after you drive the sim, you wait. And wait. And wait. Since you are picked up at your residence by one of the researchers in the study, for legal reasons, you can only leave when you are dropped off by one of the researchers as well. And they don’t let you leave until your BAC is back down to a level of 0.03, which takes approximately 140 hours. Exaggeration, for my first dosing visit it took me about 3-4 hours to get my BAC down to an appropriate level to leave. So really what they’re paying you for is the waiting time.
Did I mention this is a compensated study? If a person successfully completes all four dosing visits, along with the initial screening visit, they are paid 365 doll hairs. That’s right, three hundred and fifty donuts******! So as Colleen and I are both participating in this study, we will end up with over $700. I have nothing else to say but cha-ching.
So to those who read my blog yet do not approve of drinking, let me implore you that this is in the interest of science and the results will be put to good use by NADS and the University of Iowa. And we get paid, which is a HUGE bonus. Colleen and I are actually funding our Celebratory 2nd Anniversary Trip to Chicago through doing this study together. So not only is this study good and safe for the study of drunk driving, it is essentially funding love and romance. Who can honestly say no to that?
*This blog has been written and edited completely while under the influence of alcohol over the course of 3 weeks. Please keep this in mind while noticing any *’s and spelling/grammar errors.
**The first guy you see on the home page is Omar. He has the most intense facial hair I think I’ve ever seen. Looks like Fred Flintstone.
***I did not actually think these exact words. Referring to the phrase in bold, when people say this in real life, I feel more rage in my body than I do about most things.
******Here’s the thing, this is a reference from the 1979 movie The Jerk starring Steve Martin. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video of the scene from which this line comes so here is another funny scene. I love how he jumps when he exclaims about the arrival of the new phone book.