Janesville36.1°

National Night Out draws estimated crowd of 2,500

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Ted Sullivan
August 5, 2009
— When Edward Benson tried to walk along a straight line Tuesday, he learned the obvious: drinking and driving is dangerous.

"It's crazy, actually," the Janesville resident said. "It's worse than you think it is."


Benson realized what it's like to have a 0.17 blood-alcohol level after wearing Fatal Vision goggles at the Janesville Police Department's National Night Out. He was one of an estimated 2,500 people who attended the event.


Wearing the goggles, which simulate a high level of alcohol impairment, Benson stumbled along the line, stepping off twice.


"It really gives you a good perspective of how drinking and driving impairs your vision," Benson said.


National Night Out is an annual event the police department hosts for the community. Free food and entertainment were provided.


The event was held to allow residents to interact with police officers in a positive way, Sgt. Brian Donohoue said.


People could meet officers, ask questions and learn about the police department, he said.


Hopefully, Donohoue said, the interaction will lead to a better relationship with the community.


Maybe people who attended National Night Out will be more likely to make a police report or help with an investigation in the future, he said.


"Hey, police aren't all that bad," Donohoue said. "We're here to help."


National Night Out also reached kids, including children who might be afraid of police, officer Chad Sullivan said.


Children could get candy, washable tattoos, face paint and toys at the event. They also could watch Taser and SWAT team demonstrations.


"These are all good kids," Sullivan said. "This is a time for us as officers to interact with people and just be ourselves."


Kenneth Petersen, 13, said he enjoyed the event.


"I thought it was pretty great," he said. "I loved it."


Tristan Breidenstein, 13, said the entertainment was cool.


"I'm going to come next year, too," he said.


Wearing the Fatal Vision goggles, Monica Grace of Janesville decided she would try and walk the line. She had difficulty balancing.


"It was odd," she said. "Everything was shifted to the left. Imagine how you would be driving?"


Donohoue, who was running the Fatal Vision demonstration, said everyone fails the test.


"People just can't believe what a 0.17 is," he said. "Everyone who did this tonight would agree they would never, ever drive at this level of impairment."



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