Drunk Driving Awareness Hits UB

The Spectrum

It's Saturday night, the bar is loud with live music, people are crowded together sipping on beer and liquor - anything to get drunk. As the clock ticks on, intoxication levels get higher, and the ability to operate a motor vehicle completely disappears.

But some try anyway.

Drunk Driving Awareness Week will take place from April 2-7 in the Student Union. Using a student-to-student approach on the topic, those involved are hoping to expose the truth about drunk driving, educate students, and encourage them to make the right choice when it comes to getting home from a long night of drinking.

This week is the brainchild of Allison Funk, a senior psychology and theatre major who is also the external affairs liaison for the student affairs department. She was a friend of Matthew Scarpati, a UB student who lost his life to a drunken motorcyclist.

After almost eight months of planning, the week has finally arrived. Student affairs, Greek Life and Greek Affairs, Wellness, Sub-Board, Inc., Student Senate, Liberty Cab, BuffEats, Designated Drivers of Buffalo, and a variety of other student clubs will be advocating the message of safe driving all over campus.

The week is packed with events that raise awareness of drunk driving. Students who attend events will receive a punch card. Once a student has three holes punched, his or her card will be put in the raffle. The winners will be picked this Friday and have the chance to receive a breathalyzer, a multitude of gift cards, or a gift basket from the bookstore.

Students who choose to attend certain events will be asked to write down their experiences with alcohol on a postcard. It can be a few words or an entire story, depending on how much students are willing to share. These postcards will then be anonymously displayed in the Union for the rest of the week.

Mark Sterner will talk in Student Union Theatre on Thursday night about his experience with driving drunk: he killed three of his best friends and served time in prison for manslaughter. Sterner has been to UB before as part of the Save a Life Tour. He is the best college speaker she's ever seen, according to.

"I can't describe the impact that [Sterner] had," said Pam Jackson, Assistant Director of Greek Affairs. "It wasn't so much that the message was 'don't drink,' but to drink responsibly, and don't put your rules aside at any point in time. I would challenge any student to sit through his presentation and not be affected."

Both Jackson and Funk believe that the student-to-student aspect is critical to the success of the event. When an adult comes to speak it can sound condescending and students will not listen, according to Funk.

"It can feel like an alcohol abstinence program," Funk said. "That's not the idea here. We are acknowledging that we are on a college campus and that students drink. But we are also noting that there are other options one can take at the end of the night that could potentially save a life."

Incoming freshman are surveyed through AlcoholEDU six weeks into the semester. These results show that 55 percent of students say that they do not drink or have not consumed alcohol in the last two weeks, and about 15 percent of students are drinking moderately. This leaves about 30 percent of students who are engaging in "high risk drinking." This means that they are consuming five or more drinks, depending on gender, in a two-hour period.

According to Marla McBride, Assistant Director of Wellness Education Services, these "high risk drinkers" affect students in many different ways. Getting in a car and harming yourself or someone else is the worst-case scenario, but other complications can arise: noise complaints, students losing sleep, roommate issues, or vandalism.

The wellness department will have a table set up every day of the week informing students on binge drinking, including how to reduce this behavior, the facts about alcohol consumption, and fun substance-free alternatives.

"It's all about options," Funk said. "You have the choice not to drink and drive every single time [you consume alcohol], and you are never bound to a situation where you have to. But also you have options of other things to do. You don't need to go out and drink in Buffalo to have a good time. There's restaurants that have great food and deals, the theatre district, museums, the zoo, the aquarium, Niagara Falls - tons of stuff."

Drunk driving is an issue that has the potential to affect every single UB student. This week aims to educate students on the consequences their actions can have, and encourage students to make the right choice - every time.

Email: features@ubspectrum.com