Drunk Driving Dangers on College Campuses

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According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related injuries every year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 30 Americans die every day in drunk driving crashes.

These unfortunate statistics speak for themselves.

Despite countless efforts to dissuade students from driving drunk, the practice is unrelenting on and around college campuses. For many students, reaching a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .8 percent won’t stop them from getting behind the wheel. However, it may land them in jail, cause them to injure themselves or others, or result in a fatal accident. For these reasons, understanding unhealthy student drinking habits and teaching students to be safe is vital.

Why Do Students Drive Drunk?

A report by CNBC cites that 35 percent of college students struggle with mental health. Class expenses, tuition, difficult classes, students loans, low pay rates, and high class loads all contribute to a difficult climate for students to succeed in school. The stress of passing, managing their personal lives, and possibly maintaining a job clearly takes a toll on students.

Students drink for a wide variety of reasons, though mental health like depression — a condition that affects 26 percent of the adult population in the U.S. — can increase their likelihood to develop a dependence on alcohol. Unfortunately, the stresses of balancing academic and personal aspects of life can lead many students to become more likely to develop depression. This cycle is partly to blame for the prevalence of drunk driving on college campuses.

This may contribute to the reasons students choose to engage in social drinking. Once students are drinking, they are prone to make unwise decisions. Since alcohol lowers inhibitions, students are more likely to make unfortunate choices after a few drinks, either forgetting or not caring about the consequences. This can cause them to physically harm themselves or others, engage in risky sexual behavior, and potentially take risks on the road.

Additionally, a report by CBS explores which college students drive drunk the most. The report found that older college students were more likely to drive drunk than younger ones. This is likely because older students are more likely to own a car and are able to go out to bars, proving that when it comes to drinking, maturity doesn’t always come with age.

Poor decision-making skills are exactly why educating students on drunk driving is vital to driving down the number of students who get behind the wheel when they’re not sober.

Educating Students on Drunk Driving

Virtually all colleges in the U.S. address college drinking in some way. Some take the philosophy of teaching students to drink safely and responsibly by allowing students who are of age to drink on campus. This way, staff can help regulate drinking better and help students build healthy habits when it comes to drinking. However, opponents to this method think that it only encourages drinking culture.

Other schools remain dry campuses, meaning they prohibit alcohol on university grounds, including resident halls. Instead, they may teach safe drinking practices, but in some cases they discourage drinking altogether. The potential cons of this method are that students are likely going to drink anyway, and may even engage in more dangerous behaviors without the guidance of responsible staff.

While both methods have their pros and cons, it’s important that colleges give students the tools they need to practice safe drinking. Helping students avoid binge drinking and DUIs can be as simple as teaching students the following tips:

  • Know your drinking limit
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach
  • Don’t get another drink just because your friends are
  • Drink only one drink per hour
  • Don’t make alcohol the focus of the night
  • Go out with a designated driver
  • Take an Uber or Lift to the bar and back home

Additionally, making sure students know the consequences of drunk driving is crucial. College students need to understand that they are putting their lives, the lives of their friends who are in the car with them, and the lives of the people around them in danger every time they get behind the wheel while not sober.

Plus, even if no one gets injured, they can still get pulled over and get a DUI. The consequences of a DUI vary between states, but in most cases include jail time. In fact, according to DUI experts, “even if a driver’s BAC doesn’t reach the minimum BAC threshold, that driver can be charged with general impairment if there is enough evidence to demonstrate that he imbibed an amount of alcohol that kept him from safely operating a vehicle.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) states that sobriety checkpoints are a new way to ensure those who are not sober stay off the road, arguing that they are one of the more effective enforcement tools. This is backed up by statistics, which show that checkpoints have been proven to reduce fatalities by 20 percent. These checkpoints usually have signs pointing them out in advance, and vehicles are stopped in a specific sequence.

Drunk driving is a completely preventable risk. By helping students understand the all-too-real risks of driving while intoxicated, colleges can help reduce the amount of drunk driving that happens right on their campuses. With more research and education, efforts can come together to make the roads safer for students.

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Brooke Faulkner is a mother of two and wilderness enthusiast. When she's not writing, she can usually be found zipping around the mountains on her ATV.

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