Ann-Quinn Zobeck, the national Director of Alcohol Abuse and Impaired Driving Prevention Initiatives for BACCHUS, visited UT in March and provided an outsider’s perspective on the unique challenge UT faces in combating alcohol abuse.
Minaret: Why did BACCHUS select UT to study?
Zobeck: It has a strong BACCHUS chapter and it’s in a high-risk county. Hillsborough county, because of Ybor City and other things, has a very high impaired driving rate.
Minaret: Is alcohol-impaired driving a larger problem with the college age group?
Zobeck: It seems to be [true] with the 18-24 age group. If you look at the data, the leading cause of death between people 3-34 is unintentional injuries. The largest cause of unintentional injuries is automobile accidents, and about 40 percent of those accidents are alcohol-related. If you look at the 18-24 group nationally, they have higher BACs than other age groups when drinking and driving.
Minaret: What have been the most effective policies for alcohol reduction at other campuses?
Zobeck: Comprehensive, year-round programs, because there are high-risk times year around. It is not enough just at Christmas or Spring Break. It needs to be a message that starts from when students arrive at orientation.
Minaret: What do you think of having alcohol services in such a place as the Rathskellar? Would it help save lives?
Zobeck: I don’t think any studies show this would save lives. Students would make a choice to go off-campus. The difficult part for a campus to run a drinking establishment is because campuses aren’t in the business of making a profit. It’s a conflict of interest for a campus to compete with places off-campus. If you’re an institution of education yet you’re running happy hour specials, it’s contradictory to the mission of the institution. In places that have Rathskellars or campus bars, the attraction should be inexpensive food and good entertainment.
Minaret: How effective are safe-ride programs and would it be a viable alternative at UT?
Zobeck: There are campuses that have run successful safe-ride programs, Texas A’M being one of them. It’s costly, as you have to have the insurance to cover it. Texas A’M students fundraise $250,000 a year to keep the safe-ride going. It would be difficult at a small campus because of the cost.
Minaret: What’s the best way to prevent drunk driving?
Zobeck: First, you want to encourage students to make the smart choice. You want students to understand how alcohol affects the body so they can set safe drinking limits for themselves. Also, a sober designated driver or a taxi, safe public transportation [can be a safe alternative]. It is also great for friends to step up and [tell others] not to drive home. Publicizing the amount of enforcement that goes on is very important – students don’t seem to be aware of the amount of DUI enforcement in the area. There were 7134 DUI arrests in 2005, [an increase from last year], which means more enforcement [is taking place]. Increased enforcement [and awareness] leads to behavior modification. No single thing works, a combination is necessary.
The BACCHUS network is a thirty year-old peer-to-peer prevention organization that began at UF and has grown to over 900 campus affiliates. Their focus is promoting healthy decision-making by university students and providing training and materials to create peer education and prevention programs.