Brenda Sanchez reacts after crashing her “vehicle” on an impaired and distracted driving simulator during a Chaves County Commission meeting, Thursday morning. (Mark Wilson Photo)
The Chaves County Commission approved Thursday a budget increase to the county’s budget to reflect additional funding received from the federal Enforcement of Underage Drinking Laws Program.
The program raises awareness of the dangers and consequences of underage drinking. Chaves County DWI Coordinator Charlotte Andrade said the money would allow the county to purchase educational materials, such as a simulator that recreates the experience of driving while impaired, either by drugs or alcohol, or distracted by cell phone use or passengers.
More than that, the simulator, consisting of pedals, a steering wheel, and three screens, also features a realistic walk-through of DWI aftermath, such as being pulled over, arrested, held in jail and sentenced in court.
Andrade said Chaves County is the first in the state to have a simulator and uses it for presentations at various schools and events in the area.
Chaves County DWI Prevention Specialist Diane Taylor said distracted driving, caused by phone conversation or texting, can be as deadly as drunk driving.
“You cannot concentrate on your conversation and driving at the same time,” she said. “Please make a choice. Is your text message more important than your life, my life or an innocent bystander? Every choice you make can impact anybody’s life.”
The board also approved an application of the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office to the Law Enforcement Protection Fund for $42,200. The money would be used to purchase equipment and for training expenses.
The board also voted to declare its intent to consider an ordinance at its April meeting. The ordinance would authorize agreements between the county and the New Mexico Finance Authority for more than $5 million of funding to be used for the renovation and expansion of the Chaves County Detention Centers.
In closing comments, Chairman Greg Nibert said, in April, he and other members of the board are planning to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe regarding the potential listing of the lesser prairie chicken.
He also wanted to clarify that the board is in no way related to decision-making in local slaughterhouse Valley Meat Co.’s plans to butcher horses for human consumption.
The board has received emails from people around the country “telling us they won’t come to Roswell if it’s allowed.”
“It’s not something we can do anything about,” he said. “It’s not a county issue.”