Students say drunk driving has become a problem

Ana AgrajaContributor

Caitlin O’HalloranContributor

Robby TiersteinContributor

Drunk driving is an issue for many college students, including education major Jaylenn Arline, who has known someone who experienced driving under the influence firsthand.

“I have a friend who flipped his car, rolled over a couple of times, obviously drinking a little bit,” said Arline. “The good news is that he came out okay. It was kind of a wake-up call for him. So for that reason, I am always a little cautious to not drink and drive.”

Drunk driving is an issue for those of all ages and across the nation. It is an issue that has affected individuals such as college students for years.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in an October 2020 study, the most recent statistics estimate that about 1,519 college students aged 18 to 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.

According to Alcohol Problems and Solutions, a website organized by a professor in the sociology department at in the State University of New York, when it comes to drinking and driving incidents, younger people are the group that are “over-represented” in that category.

“People aged 16 to 24 were involved in 28 percent of all alcohol-related driving accidents, although they make up only 14 percent of the U.S. population,” said David J. Hanson, professor of Sociology at the State University of New York.

“I’ve been in the business for 21 years, I can’t even tell you – it’s countless – the amount of times that we’ve had incidents that I’ve dealt with,” said Sgt. Cynthia Torres who works at the Southern Police Department. “There is possession of alcohol by a minor, or if you’re under the influence or suspected to be under the influence, under 14-227a, which is operating under the influence statute, a lower standard if there’s a minor intoxicated.”

There are many ways that different groups offer exercises and presentations- for individuals to gain knowledge and encouragement- and to prevent future drinking and driving.

In previous years, the University Police did an event where they made students wear “drunk goggles” to give them an idea of what it is like to function under the influence. They have also had an exercise where students drive a certain length with the drunk goggles on in a golf cart, according to Sgt. Torres.

Communication major and Spanish minor Ramsley Exantus said his best option getting home after drinking too much at a party would be to call a relative. Extanus said, over the summer, he was working at the beach in Milford and one of his friends drank and drove.

“My first thought was to call my friend’s dad, but I was thinking about him being in trouble, so my second option was to call my brother and basically, he brought his car and drove my friend’s car back to his house,” said Extanus. “We snuck him through the window so his parents wouldn’t find, and we checked on him the next day and he wasn’t in trouble.”

According to the M.A.A.D Power of Youth “You Have the Power To Take A Stand” handbook, two-thirds of underage drinking deaths in teens are not related to car crashes and are instead caused by drowning, fires, falls, and alcohol poisoning. Other serious health issues, such as unwanted sex and pregnancy, are dangerous because alcohol takes away the ability to make safe decisions.

“The main focus of our youth department,” said Program Manager of the Youth Department of M.A.A.D in Connecticut, Nicole Wichowski, “is preventing underage drinking in general, not just the drinking and driving piece – underage drinking as a whole.”

“We have two kind of separate programs here; one is for our youth department and we go out to schools and community centers and educate students on the dangers of underage drinking. Usually, we do a PowerPoint presentation with some facts and figures, we always share some real-life stories and then we usually have a victim of drunk driving speak or sometimes a defender will come and speak,” said Wichowski. “The other program that we have is a court recommended program. This one is for teens who had their first offence, related either to driving offence or if they’ve had an offence related to the possession of marijuana or alcohol.”

The CT branch of M.A.A.D posts remembrances of victims and survivors of drunk driving in Connecticut that occurred every month, their most recent post for the victims of December. They use their Facebook platform to inform as well as offer help and tips for those struggling through this issue.

“I do think that there should be more awareness around drunk driving. It’s very serious and it can lead to a bunch of accidents,” said special education major Arielle Eighmy, a senior. “That is why it’s important for students in college to learn about drunk driving.”

Currently the SCSU Wellness Center has assisted students with “providing a warm and welcoming environment that values a healthy and connected community,” according to its page on the Southern website. Those with alcohol issues, or issues related to alcohol and health can go to the center, located in Schwartz Hall, Room 100.

“I think that they could do more breathalyzers, people monitoring people at restaurants, maybe a drink limit for drivers,” said elementary education major Kirstin Colwell, a senior. “Like, they were serving one or two drinks depending on the alcohol percentage.”

“We try to educate everybody on drinking and driving and underage drinking, how they’ll get a fine if they’re caught on campus,” said SCSU Campus Police Officer, Sergio Nunez. “We try our best to educate as much as we can. We understand they’re in college and we know they’re going to go out and experience it because they’re away from home, but we do our part as best as we can.”

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