Celebrity waiter nights planned to raise money for drunk driving simulator

- Posted on Jul 23, 2010 - 06:38 PM

Waiting To Serve You, a celebrity waiter night at Rosemary and Wine at 17 Plaza in Gloucester, to raise funds to purchase a $15,000 driver’s education simulator known as Sidne, will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Seatings are at 5 o’clock and 7:30 each night.

Sidne, an acronym for Simulated Impaired Driving Experience, is a battery powered, go-cart type vehicle that simulates the effects of impairment from alcohol or drugs on driving skills. The vehicle has two modes, normal and impaired, that are controlled by a program instructor using an infrared remote control.

In the normal mode, the vehicle’s steering, braking and acceleration respond appropriately for the driver. In the impaired mode, the vehicle reacts with delayed steering, braking and acceleration, simulating the effects of a vehicle being driven by an impaired driver. The Sidne can also simulate the effects of driving while texting or pursuing other driving distractions.

The remote additionally allows the instructor to provide emergency braking, select the speed mode and turn off the vehicle. A Sidne cart will be on display at Rosemary and Wine during the dinner evenings, courtesy of the James City County Police Department.

Gloucester Sheriff’s Deputy Kimberly Taylor is heading up the drive to bring a Sidne to Gloucester. She drove one while attending a D.A.R.E. conference in Texas and said it is "100 percent better" than using a golf cart and impairment simulating goggles for driver education. "The golf cart is not stable and there is too much opportunity for injury. They really have no safety features," she said. The lower profile Sidne is far less likely to be overturned and is operated more like a motor vehicle.

Taylor said the high number of alcohol related traffic deaths in the county in recent years has motivated her push for the Sidne, particularly because almost half of those killed were under the age of 21.

Rosemary and Wine owner and chef Lisa Britto met Taylor through both women’s work with a local gang prevention task force and Britto was eager to help with the Sidne campaign. She expects the vehicle to be particularly beneficial for teen drivers.

"Teenagers are really hands-on. If they’re not going to experience it, they’re not going to get it," Britto said of efforts to teach young drivers the dangers of driving while impaired or distracted.

The Sidne will be used for sheriff’s office promotions but it will also be utilized in the Gloucester High School driver’s education program, Taylor said. GHS has agreed to accept donations toward the simulator so the contributions can be tax deductible. "Our goal is to raise the $15,000 over the three celebrity waiter nights," Taylor said, "so Sidne can start school in September."

Taylor said setting up and running the Sidne driving experience requires four "presenters" and the Gloucester Volunteer Fire and Rescue and Riverside Walter Reed Hospital have offered personnel to help the Sheriff’s Office staff its staging. The hospital has also agreed to take care of what little maintenance the Sidne requires, which is generally tire and battery replacement.

Arriving just in time to help with the event, Britto’s brother, Art Britto, is in town from Florida where he is a chef at a Boca Raton country club. Art will be doing the cooking for the celebrity waiter nights. "Our full menu will be available, plus whatever specials he dreams up," Lisa said.

The waiter lineup for Monday includes Gloucester Sheriff Steve Gentry, local attorney Brian Decker, insurance agent John Baxter and pharmacist Keith Hodges. Gloucester’s crime victim advocate Karen Mortensen and Walmart general manager Brian Richards are scheduled to bus tables.

Waiting tables Tuesday will be Gentry, Father Jim Cowles of St. Therese and John Hutchinson of Gloucester Public Schools. The bus staff includes GSO Major Darrell Warren and Capt. Ryan Cookson along with Jenny Crittenden and Elizabeth McCormick. The Wednesday waiters will be Gentry, volunteer firefighter Hunter Calloway, John Phillips and Dr. Tom Young with bus girls Linda Grow and Cheryl Dame.

Reservations are required and can be made by calling Rosemary and Wine at 684-0777 or through the restaurant’s website at Rosemaryandwine.com. Donations are also being accepted. For more information contact Taylor at ktaylor@gloucesterva.info.