Archive for August, 2007

Labor Day is time for Crackdown on Drunk Driving

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Labor Day marks the end of summer. The night air turns cool, students return to school, and BBQ’s become less frequent.  Apparently labor day weekend is also one of the biggest weekends for a more ignominious activity: drunk driving.  Government statistics show that the last weekend of summer is celebrated with higher rates of drinking and unfortunately, drinking and driving.  In a move which Choose Responsibility strongly agrees with, MADD and other organizations are helping publicize increased police efforts this weekend to stop and catch those who choose to drink and drive:

The enforcement crackdown, known as Drunk Driving.Over the Limit. Under Arrest., includes sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols as well as an $11 million national TV and radio campaign. The timing of the crackdown – the last weeks of summer vacation including the Labor Day holiday weekend – is a heavy travel time and period of increased drunk driving fatalities and injuries.”

So please, enjoy the weekend safely and responsibly.

An echo from the past

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

During the early 1980s, when state drinking ages were fluctuating wildly across the nation, Vermonters held firm with an 18 year-old drinking age until forced to raise it to 21 by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. Then-governor Richard Snelling vetoed the state legislature’s attempts to raise the drinking age to 19 twice, once in 1982 and once in 1983. Snellings primary opposition to raising the drinking age arose from the belief that it is contradictory to allow 18 year-olds to vote and enlist in the army but not to consume alcohol. He also believed that the raising the drinking age would do little to change the complex issue of alcohol abuse, especially among young people“Until such time as adults cease believing that being drunk is funny or socially acceptable, there is no reason to expect any significant change in the behavior of our young people.” (As quoted in “Vermont continues to resist rise in drinking age,” UPI Wire, 20 April 1983)

Even more interesting than Snelling’s measured opposition to a higher drinking age were his ideas for addressing the problem of drunk driving and alcohol abuse among young people. In 1982, he proposed a required alcohol education course for all 18-20 year olds and a special ID card that would allow them to purchase alcohol after completing the course.

“‘There is no single stroke-of-the pen solution to the very complex social problem of teen-age drinking,’ Snelling said

‘Educational programs have been effective and I believe it is perfectly proper and prudent that young adults ages 18-20 who want to drink in Vermont be exposed to the laws of Vermont regarding alcohol and the tragic costs of its abuse.’

A Snelling aide said he was unaware of a similar program anywhere else in the country.

In April, Snelling vetoed a bill raising Vermont’s legal drinking age from 18 to 19, saying that if 18-year-olds are old enough to vote, they are old enough to drink.

Since then, however, his Democratic opponent in the 1982 gubneratorial race, Lt. Gov. Madeleine Kunin, has made a campaign issue out of the question.

Timothy Hayward, executive assistant to the governor, said Snelling’s proposal would require all 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, even those from out of state, to have a special ID card showing they’ve attended the class in order to buy alcohol in Vermont.” (“Governor would require drinking course for youths,” Associated Press, 10 June 1982)

The ideas behind Snelling’s 25 year-old remarks are echoed clearly in Choose Responsibility’s own proposal to lower the drinking age to 18 through a system of education and licensing. Perhaps Vermont’s long time governor was onto a winning idea that just needed a few decades to percolate!


Legal Age 18 clear winner in MSNBC poll!

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

The drinking age debate has provider fodder for national news this week, starting with PARADE on Sunday and finishing up with a headline story on on Tuesday afternoon. The MSNBC article was accompanied by a poll, which had 163,000 respondents by 11 AM EST on Wednesday August 15.

Should the drinking age be lowered? *163,103 respondents as of 11 AM EST*

  • 30%: NO, I think that could lead to rise in car accident and drinking problems
  • 56%: YES, If people are old enough to serve in the military, they’re old enough to drink
  • 12%: YES, But only if they obtain a “drinking license”
  • 1.3: I don’t know

We are happy to see that lowering the drinking age outright or through a system of education and licensing ([CR]’s proposal) is winning by a long shot! Make sure you take a moment to read the article and weigh in on the poll today.

University officials charged in alcohol poisoning death

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

The New York Times reported on August 4th that two Rider University officials and three fraternity members were charged with aggravated hazing in the March death of a freshmen fraternity pledge. Gary DeVercelly, an 18 year-old freshman from Long Beach, CA, died on March 30 after a night of drinking as part of a fraternity initiation ritual.  When DeVercelly died, his Blood Alcohol Content was 0.426–a level at which an individual will be completely unconscious, have depressed reflexes, impaired respiratory and circulatory function, and will be near death.  He had consumed more than half of a bottle of flavored vodka along with his fraternity brothers.

This tragic case represents the first time that university employees have been charged directly in an alcohol related incident.  Neither the dean of students or Greek life coordinator were present at the fraternity house on March 30 nor were they directly responsible for providing the alcohol that was served at the party.  The three students charged, who are all over 21, were present at the party that led to DeVercelly’s death.

A new approach to preventing binge drinking on campus?

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

A humorous article in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education presents a new approach for getting at the impervious problem of collegiate binge drinking:

“Tame attempts to address the problem — alcohol-counseling meetings, intensified training of resident counselors, and SWAT-team sweeps through the dorms — clearly have failed to deal with this intractable problem.

“We are encouraged, then, by news of efforts to think outside the box, to implement radical solutions to a radical problem. Leading the way is tiny Lucifer College in Minnesota. As Lucifer’s dean told us, “What we need to do is to make binge drinking unfashionable. And there’s one foolproof way to do that: We have to get the faculty involved.”

“To wit, this year Lucifer will begin sending faculty members into dorms to bartend beer bashes, while students will be invited to faculty cocktail parties, where they will be encouraged to drink in the company of their professors. Preliminary studies suggest that the sight of doddering septuagenarians with gin blossoms on their nostrils, sloshing martinis on their bow ties and tweed jackets while holding forth about Cicero, can reduce student consumption of alcohol dramatically.”

The article, which was written by two Amherst College professors, goes on to describe a campus culture where courses on alcohol are incorporated across the curriculum, where professors attend students parties, and where binge drinking has become so unpopular that the bars in town have been forced to stop serving beer.

While farcical, some lessons may be learned from this account of fictional Lucifer College. At many colleges and universities, faculty members are barred from gatherings with students–even those older than 21–involving alcohol. Where professors were once able to interact with students socially and model responsible behavior around alcohol at departmental and course-related functions, this type is interaction has effectively ceased. It has been replaced by a campus culture marked by a disconnect between faculty and students and a general wariness on the part of faculty to interact in student life outside the classroom. Students confine their drinking–more intense now than it was two or three decades ago–to dorm rooms, frat houses, and off-campus parties.