Drinking and Driving Among College Students–the Alarming Reality
Party, Party, Party
It’s no secret that typical/traditional college students sometimes party too hard and do stupid things. A whole genre of movies has been made in the Animal House tradition, celebrating frat parties, keggers, and incapacitated sorority girls. A website called College Drinking: Changing the Culture documents statistics for all sorts of frighteningly dangerous behavior committed by college students under the influence of alcohol. Go there…it’s a good case for online education, where if you drink, at least you’re at home by yourself.
One of the most frightening statistics is the rate at which college students drive drunk. According to government stats for 2009, the most recent complete year, 3,360,000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 drove drunk in that year. If you divide that by 50 states and 365 days, that means 1841 drunk drivers who are also college students on the roads in any given state on any given day. Now, obviously that’s not proper statistical method—proportionally, California will have more drunk drivers than Montana, for example. But it does show how problematic the issue is—that’s a lot of drunk drivers for any state (and that’s only the college students!).
There are programs in place to address both drinking in general and driving under the influence among college students. Here are some of the suggestions being emphasized to combat dangerous, under-the-influence behavior, especially driving:
- Programs should be community and culture based, not just college based. Every college has chapters of SADD, but let’s face it, those clubs tend to be populated by responsible students who know that drinking and driving is a problem and weren’t going to do it anyway. College students should be getting the message from everywhere—parents, high schools, TV, video games, Facebook, Twitter, everywhere—rather than just from a single group on campus.
- To stop college drunk driving, start with middle schoolers. Or even younger. A lot of people think that drunk driving is bad, but don’t understand how that will apply to their drinking, their parties, or their choices. Those connections should be made long before students get into college.
- Increase and advertize police monitoring. Study after study shows that setting up checkpoints, increasing DUI arrests, and letting the public know those things are happening, actually reduces the rate of drunk driving. As with all people, no matter their age, college students are less likely to try to get away with something if they are more likely to be caught.
- Target media campaigns to passengers, rather than drivers. If the emphasis is “don’t get in a car with someone who’s been drinking,” students are much more likely to take a critical view of the driver’s capacity than if they are evaluating themselves. A student may think that he himself is perfectly fine to drive, but know that his friend isn’t. It’s easier to judge someone else than ourselves! That’s the kind of judgment that can save lives.
I’m not expecting college students never to drink, but I do expect them to act like responsible adults. The numbers of college students driving while impaired is both shocking and dangerous—but really, if you’re smart enough o be in college, you’re smart enough to know better. And if knowing better isn’t enough, you’re smart enough o get the help you need.