WORTHINGTON -- After spending the morning watching a court trial involving driving-while-impaired charges, several Worthington High School seniors admitted they were surprised by some aspects of the trial.
Judge Jeffrey Flynn convened court at the auditorium in an effort to give high school seniors a close-up look at how many ways a DWI can affect a person's life. He quoted statistics to the students, telling them there were 186 DWI arrests in Nobles County in 2005.
"I didn't realize it was that big of a thing," student Libby Tims said. "That is like one every couple days. It is not just another statistic."
Student Jorge Evasku knew the defendant personally and was surprised to see her on the stage of the auditorium.
"I was like, 'Wow!'" Evasku said. "I would have never predicted her to get a DWI."
During the trial, the defendant admitted to drinking three beers in a five-hour period, which was enough to give her a .08 blood alcohol concentration -- a fact that came as a shock to many students.
"I was surprised it was from beer," Tims said. "I always associated hard liquor with drunk driving."
A major surprise to all the teens was the cost of insurance after being convicted of a DWI. State Farm Insurance Agent Jason Vote told the students insurance could cost as much as $8,000 a year for an 18-year-old with a DWI on his or her driving record.
"I hadn't thought about the way it would affect the whole family," student Derek Hellstrom said.
"That is half a year of college tuition," WHS Principal Bruce Blatti added.
Evasku said it was interesting that even farm vehicles could be affected by rising insurance rates.
Flynn told students the decision whether or not to drive after drinking was tough under the defendant's impaired circumstances.
"You wouldn't make the decision whether to have surgery or get married after drinking a six-pack," he pointed out.
"That's a good way to think about it," Evasku said.
"I had never thought about it that way," Amanda Elsing, another student, admitted.
"It really hit home," student Michelle Holinka agreed.
Watching the defendant go through the trial was eye-opening for many of the students.
"It happened in our county, in our town," student Kayla Schwarz said. "We can visualize it a lot more."
Student Julie Ailts said watching the trial reinforced the decision she had made not to drink.