Every 30 minutes, someone in this country dies in an alcohol-related car accident.
I tend to have a realistic take on things ? some friends even call me a cynic. However, even I believe that people are bright and caring enough to protect themselves and their friends from a known and preventable killer like drunk driving.
But the fact is, I?m wrong.
Nearly one third of college students would be diagnosed as alcohol abusers by psychiatric criteria. Two out of five of us would be considered binge drinkers. Perhaps most shocking is that 2.8 million college students drove a car while under the influence of alcohol in 2001 alone.
Alcohol-related injuries and deaths are the most obvious dangers we face as college students. They are so common that I would be unsurprised to learn that every one of us knows someone who has been involved in an alcohol-related accident. In fact, Carnegie Mellon very recently lost a member of its community to a fatal car crash. While an official cause has not been made public, there was suspicion that alcohol was a factor in the accident. In fact, friends of the deceased have said that he had been known to drink and drive.
The student was visiting home when the accident happened, and no other cars were involved in the crash. If the student, who was underage, had been leaving a CMU party or had hit and killed another driver, this tragedy might have caused a bigger public uproar. It might have hit closer to home for a broader segment of students.
In the end, I think everyone who felt the loss of this student?s death was left wishing there was something that could have been done to prevent the tragedy.
There are some important things that anyone can do to save a life. But I?ll be honest: Sometimes they aren?t easy.
First, if you see a friend drinking too much, say something. Be respectful and honest. You can?t make someone change, but you can help him (or her) change himself. You?ll be putting yourself out on a limb and you might
feel uncomfortable bringing it up, but it?s the best thing you can do as a friend.
Second, if you come across someone who has passed out as a result of drinking, check for the signs of acute alcohol poisoning:
??Is it hard to wake your friend up? Try pinching.
??Is your friend breathing slowly?
??Is your friend?s skin blue or clammy?
??Is your friend vomiting?
If you can say ?yes? to one or more of these questions, call Campus Police (x8-2323) to get him to a hospital. The University?s amnesty policy (see www.cmu.edu/police/alcohol.htm) will protect you from punishment ? it?s designed to get people help quickly, not root out and punish underage drinkers.
I?ll repeat that I?m a realist. College students aren?t about to boot the booze, and drinking in and of itself really is not the problem. The problem seems to be drinking irresponsibly. Preventing tragedy only requires two tasks: take the time in advance to figure out how you will get home if you plan on drinking, and secondly, watch out for your friends.
Irresponsible drinking causes too much harm for us to ignore:
??1400 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol misuse.
??70,000 college students reported cases of sexual abuse because of alcohol use.
??500,000 college students blame alcohol for causing them injuries each year.
??600,000 reported cases of students? being assaulted by someone who had been drinking.
Each decision I make is mine and mine alone, but each decision I make can affect the lives of countless other people. Be responsible. It?s worth it.