Cause for Alarm
Traffic crashes are the greatest single cause of death for America's youth -- ages two through 33 and over 40% of these crashes are alcohol-related. Indeed, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults in the United States.
Each year, drinking by college students, ages 18 to 24, contributes to an estimated 1,400 student deaths, 500,000 injuries, more than 600,000 assaults, more than 70,000 sexual assaults, 400,000 engaging in unprotected sex, more than 150,000 developing an alcohol-related health problem. In 2000, 2.1 million college students drove a car while under the influence of alcohol." (Hingson, 2002) Furthermore, a recent Harvard University study established that the greatest public health concern regarding alcohol-related behavior is impaired driving within the college community. It is imperative, therefore, that an underage drinking prevention/driving safety skills message find its way into our schools and colleges. Additionally, for those 21 and older, a designated driver message should be used to call on one person to abstain from alcohol and to be responsible for driving before celebrations begin. Each of these awareness tools will remind youth under 21 not to drink because it is illegal in all 50 states and for those adults over 21, to be responsible by never getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving suggest the following steps to guard against drunk-driving crashes:
- Be a responsible host. Serve food and have non-alcoholic drinks available.
- Don't let your guests drive after drinking alcohol and never serve alcohol to someone under the age of 21.
- Never ride in a car with someone who has been drinking - call a cab or ask a friend to drive you home.
- Support measures to strengthen drunk driving and victims rights laws by contacting elected officials.
- Report drunk drivers immediately to area law enforcement from a car phone or pay phone with the license plate number, description of the vehicle, and the direction in which it was traveling. Keep a safe distance from anyone driving while intoxicated.
- Your best defense against a drunk driver is to wear your safety belt and be sure children are properly secured in child safety seats.