TTU Pushes Strong Message Against Alcohol Abuse During Awareness Week

While rescue workers pried and scissored their way into two wrecked vehicles on Dixie Avenue in front of Tennessee Tech's Roaden University Center, some bystanders calmly observed while others paced nervously.

"What kind of car is that?"

"Was there a pedestrian involved?"

"What happened?"

A lesson happened. As part of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week activities sponsored by Tennessee Tech's Student Affairs Office, organizers staged the scene to mimic what happens when a drunk driver takes the wheel and causes an accident.

As firefighters and ambulance workers worked to free a "victim" from one of the autos donated by Bob's Auto Body, about 150 students gathered, most initially convinced that something terrible had occurred.

TTU junior Andrew Looney said he was immediately grief stricken.

"They had me convinced it was real," Looney said. "I think it was a great example."

Why such an elaborate effort to make a point?

Alcohol-related automobile crashes are the number one killer of people ages 16-24. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving statistics, every weeknight from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., one in 13 drivers is drunk; on weekends 1-6 a.m., one in seven drivers is drunk.

Ed Boucher, Tennessee Tech's dean of students, wanted the accident simulation as the inaugural event to kickoff a week of activities designed to spotlight the ugly realities associated with alcohol abuse.

"We're telling students we don't want to be the alcohol police; we just want to represent responsibility," said Boucher. "Just pause and think about the choices you make."

Many of the week's activities emphasized the consequences of poor choices.

The Cookeville Police Department invited students to try on "fatal vision" goggles, which simulated the effects of alcohol at the .1 and .17 levels. A poster display titled "What Would You Do With $6,000?" asked students to think about what they could do with the amount of money equaling the approximate cost of a DUI charge.

Alcohol is completely banned on Tennessee Tech's campus, and sororities have banned drinking on their properties. Two of the dozen social fraternities also ban alcohol on their properties, while the others follow guidelines that include informing the university of any party, hiring a security guard to check identifications and appointing a designated driver to provide transportation for anyone at a party.

During awareness week, students were reminded, instructed and even entertained with alcohol awareness programs. Residence halls hosted "mocktail" parties, social gatherings without alcohol; forums encouraged students to ask questions, and information displays offered literature and advice.

And in case these messages didn't get through, one mangled car sat in the middle of campus as a silent testimony to the relationship between alcohol abuse and tragedy.