Question of the Week

May 5 , 2009


The statistics are not new.

"According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 41,059 people died in traffic crashes in 2007 in the United States (latest figures available), including an estimated 12,998 people who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Drunk driving fatalities accounted for 32% of all traffic deaths last year, that is, on average someone is killed in an alcohol-impaired driving crash every 40 minutes in the U.S. (Source: NHTSA/FARS, 2008)"

Even with the knowledge that almost three dozen people die ever day in alcohol related crashes, people still make the decision to drive impaired and take more lives. While different people make the decision to drive drunk for different reasons, for some the decision is made because they don't realize, or don't believe, that they are actually impaired.

"In continuing their efforts to prevent drunk driving, NHTSA [U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] and the Ad Council have evaluated ways to extend the reach of the campaign, which has been accomplished by focusing on individual responsibility in an effort to reduce impaired driving. The 'buzzed driver' is one who drinks too much and drives, but does not consider himself a hazard on the roadway or a drunk driver because he believes his drinking is 'moderate.' The expanded campaign is designed to correct that perception, by instilling the notion that if you are 'buzzed,' you're too impaired to drive safely. It will inspire a dialogue about and recognition of the dangers of 'buzzed' driving and, subsequently, motivate people to stop driving 'buzzed.'"

With prom season wrapping up, and graduation season on its way, many teens are making plans to create memorable nights. Unfortunately, for some, the night can be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

"You're going to remember your prom for the rest of your life. It can be a time of laughter, dancing, fun, and celebration. But it can also a dangerous time. Automobile crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, and according to recent NHTSA (National Highway and Transport Safety Administration) figures, approximately 28% of traffic deaths of 15- to 20-year-olds are alcohol-related. The use of alcohol is frequently linked with other risky and potentially destructive behaviors, such as physical and emotional violence, sexual mistakes or misjudgments, unintentional injuries such as drownings and falls, and, of course, alcohol overdose. It takes only one such incident to turn what should be an event that is remembered forever as a celebration into a tragedy. ... Support your friends by speaking up when you see them making questionable choices, especially where drugs and alcohol are involved."

It can be difficult for people to know what to say when they see their friends or family members making choices that cause worry. While it can seem complicated, the graphic facts can sometimes be enough to help teens understand the potential outcomes that can result from their decisions.

"The Sober Graduation program began in 1985. The community-based program targets teens who are in the last few months of their senior year in high school: during prom, graduation, and other end-of-the-year activities. It is designed to be as realistic as possible in educating students on the consequences of drinking and driving, and often includes the use of simulator vehicles, jail tours, mock trials, graphic accident photos, stories from those who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers, and/or a tour of the county morgue."

Statistics and graphic simulations can help some see what might happen if they permit themselves to become impaired by alcohol. For others, it takes something more personal.

"Texas leads the nation in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. And like other states, the Texas Department of Transportation has looked for better ways to get out the familiar life-saving message: don't drink and drive. A new ad campaign, engineered by Sherry Matthews Advocacy Marketing in Austin, may be the most effective effort yet at grabbing the attention of teenagers -- thanks largely to the brave efforts of Jacqueline Saburido. Saburido was horribly burned in a fire that started after the car she was riding in was hit by a drunk driver. Two others in the car were killed, and Saburido, a native of Venezuela, has made a painful recovery. The ad campaign pulls no punches -- her scarred, disfigured face is featured prominently in posters. The television spots are even more poignant: it begins by focusing on a black-and-white photo of an attractive young woman, while an unseen narrator describes the night Saburido's car was hit. Then Saburido lowers the photograph to reveal her own face. 'This is me after being hit by a drunk driver,' she says in the ad."

Questions of the Week:
How can you and your friends work to create positive memories for prom and/ or graduation? What can you do if you are concerned about the safety of a friend or family member who is planning to drink or who has been drinking? What is the best way to reach those you know with the potential dangers associated with drinking (and more specifically drinking and driving)? How can a person know that they are safe to drive? How can you be sure that the person who is supposed to be driving you is safe to drive? It is easier to tell if someone is too drunk to drive, how can you tell if someone is too "buzzed" to drive?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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