College students are preparing to leave for school. There
are big going away parties to celebrate their passage from teen to adulthood.
There are parties when they get to school; get-to-know-each-other parties,
fraternity parties, and friends just getting together to celebrate their
The very first experience college students have is
drinking and often drinking and driving. Some of the students make it home and
some don’t. More 18 year olds died in lower BAC (between .01 and .09)
alcohol-related crashes than any other age.
Over 1/3 of all deaths for people ages 15-20, result from
motor vehicle crashes and over 1/3 of these motor vehicle fatalities involved
Since 1998, all States, including the District of
Columbia have set a BAC limit of .02 or lower for drivers under the age of 21
(Zero Tolerance Laws)
What are Zero Tolerance Laws? It simply means that it is illegal for persons under the age
of 21 to purchase and publicly possess alcoholic beverages. A zero tolerance
makes it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to drive with any measurable
amount of alcohol in their blood. The BAC levels vary throughout the States.
They range from .00-.02 for drivers under 21. Illinois law is among the
strictest in the States at .00 BAC. If any alcohol is detected in the blood
stream the driver will be issued a traffic infraction including a fine and the
revocation of their drivers license.
Reducing alcohol-related fatalities will be increasingly
more difficult to achieve with a rising youth population. There are a number of
things that must be done to decrease alcohol related deaths. They include
reaching parents who ignore or condone drinking by underage children; increasing
enforcement of Zero Tolerance Laws that have been shown to be effective in
reducing fatalities; getting treatment for hard to reach young people that are
alcoholics or have drinking problems; and convincing young people that underage
drinking and driving, is socially unacceptable.
Here are some strategies for dealing with alcohol use on
a college campus:
- Limit access to alcohol- Have alcohol free parties so the first
experience on the college campus will not be alcohol-related.
- Have birthday lists, ID bracelets and university staff
presence at events. Do not allow alcohol to be served at athletic events or
- Ban alcohol in residence halls.
- Change perception of norms- Make underage drinking socially
unacceptable. Change perceptions of binge drinking on campus.
- Discipline- Enforce alcohol discipline system. Community service,
education, assessment, treatment as part of sanctions.
- Training on alcohol abuse/poisoning/ DUI- Promotions or education
speaker series, educational articles in school newspaper and newsletters. Have
the school enact a protocol for all residence life, staff and security.
- Safe rides- Taxi vouchers (sold to parents of students), designated driver recognition
When searching for a college campus with your teen, a parent needs to be aware of more than education when
choosing a school. Parents need to be concerned about issues of alcohol use.
Here are some questions parents need to have answered when they visit the
- What is the first impression of the school?
- What messages is the school projecting to incoming freshmen regarding alcohol use on campus?
- Is this school known for its “party life”?
- What kind of opportunities will your child have to obtain alcohol?
College life can be challenging to the freshmen, the new
responsibilities of school, being away from home, and the increased use of
alcohol among their peers. Before your child sets off for school, it is
important to talk to your child about alcohol use and the consequences of
drinking and driving because “Zero Tolerance Means Zero Chances”.