Governor’s Office of Highway Safety grant used to combat drunk driving

Dave McDermott

Lauren Gorla

The Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs is planning to use a nearly $10,000 grant to develop events and programs on campus that will raise awareness among students regarding drinking and driving.

The grant was awarded in October of last year and will run through September 30.

Many of the details of the events and programs are currently being worked out because Dave McDermott, administrative coordinator for the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs, wants the majority of planning to be student-led.

“I don’t have all the specifics just because I want students to plan a lot of it, so once they’re in place, our student assistants will take over a lot of the planning,” McDermott said.

“The nature of drinking and driving is that it affects us all.  It’s a danger not only to the individual, but to everyone else that is on the road,” McDermott said.

There will be more events and programs going on around spring break and graduation because those are times when drinking and driving is a large issue, McDermott said.

The Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs, run through the Dean of Students office, will be using the grant money this semester to focus more not only on drunk driving, but also on helping students make good choices about how to get home after a night of drinking.

The grant is awarded through the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Health Services office had previously used it but decided to give it to the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs this year.

“The reason Health Services transferred it this year is because it makes more sense for us to use it in our office.  Health Services focuses more broadly on alcohol whereas in our office, we can specifically look at drinking and driving,” Kerry Greenstein, assistant dean of students, said.

“We’ve been limited on what we could do with drinking and driving because of budget, so I’m excited about this because it allows us to expand our message and encourage students to make good decisions,” McDermott said.

The goal is to accomplish two things: one, to change behaviors about drinking and driving and two, to increase awareness among students about the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs, Greenstein said.

“We will have a DUI simulator on February 20 as part of the Wellness Fair, and we’ll have some peer educators who will be paid to work on the grant,” McDermott said.

The grant will also pay for promotional items like t-shirts, on which will be written contact information for safe rides available in Statesboro.

“What we’re really focusing on is getting out information on what safe rides are available in Statesboro.  I think there are more options than students realize, so we’re trying to promote those options.  Just in the last couple of months two new taxi services have opened in the city,” McDermott said.

Previous surveys completed on campus show that the average number of students who admitted to driving after drinking is higher than the national average, McDermott said.

In fall 2010, 29.3 percent of Georgia Southern University students admitted to driving after drinking, compared to only 22.3 percent of students across the nation.

“I’m expecting that to change when we do the survey again because there are a lot more options now than there used to be. I think there have been some changes in the last couple years of how aware students are of the risks,” McDermott said.

Greenstein said, “Ultimately, the hope is to keep drunk drivers off the road so everyone is safer in the long run.”