'Holiday Sobriety Challenge' at AMS gives celebs a first hand opportunity to see the dangers of drunken driving

By Justin Boron

Amy Farris is still overcome by the loss of her husband to a drunken driver who smashed into their car over a year and a half ago.

Through tears of loss and frustration, she told a story of how her life was almost perfect.

She and her husband Keith had a child together named Christopher, now 3. Keith had just started an information technology job, she said.

But Farris' world collapsed when she said a van struck the family's car and she looked over at her husband's lifeless body.

Keith would have been 28 this year.

After serving 18 months, the driver of the car left prison two days ago.

"He gets to spend Christmas with his family," she said. "We will never have another Christmas with Keith."

Farris, 27, gave her emotional account to highway safety officials, state patrol officers, and a group of reporters at the Atlanta Motor Speedway Friday to exemplify the consequences of driving under the influence.

While organizers and officers said they take the crime seriously, they brought several Atlanta regional celebrities to further illustrate the effects of even slight inebriation in an event called the "Holiday Sobriety Challenge."

WSB-AM Traffic Reporter Herb Emory was one of the celebrities that gulped down just enough Icehouse beer to reach a Blood Alcohol Content of .04. The level to be considered legally drunk is .08.

When asked by State Patrol Officer Larry Schnall how he felt, Emory responded saying, "I feel good, like I knew I would."

Out on the road, other local celebrities and dignitaries like Jonathan Hyla of Star 94, rapper Da Brat, DJ Nab of Hot 107.9, and U.S. Congressman-elect Lynn Westmoreland drove through an obstacle course with evaluators from Extreme Measures Teen Driving School.

"It's going to be hard [for them] to take the corners, especially after a few drinks," said Daniel Bell, 38, of McDonough.

When Westmoreland's alcohol level reached close to .04, he took his turn behind the wheel.

In a portion of the course that tested reaction time, Westmoreland exceeded the recommended speed of 20 mph and got up to around 40, slamming into the cones which represented a vehicle or a pedestrian.

Both the evaluator and Westmoreland laughed.

"We almost made it," Westmoreland said. "That don't count though."

When the results came in, four out of the five drivers failed at least one portion of the driving course and the same number failed at least one portion of the field sobriety test administered by highway patrol officers.

"Being in the legislature for the past 12 years, we've worked to get the legal limit lowered from .10 to .08," Westmoreland said. "But for those of us who haven't had a breathalyzer test before, it's hard to imagine just what that .08 feels like. After today, I can tell you that no one who's at .08 needs to be driving. I was obviously not at my best even though I was well below that."