If free french fries from McDonald's will keep a student from driving drunk, Bel Air High School is willing to try the pitch.
School officials are issuing cards to students this week that advertise a drug abuse hot line and offer students discounts at nearly a dozen businesses, including the local McDonald's.
The cards work like this: They bear the number of the 24-hour National Institute for Drug Abuse hot line on one side. On the other side, they entitle students to yearlong discounts at participating businesses.
The hope is that students will carry the cards and phone number to call with questions about drug and alcohol abuse, or if they're in an emergency situation, says Marie Curry, who advises the school's Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) chapter.
"We're looking for anything we can do to make the issue of drinking and driving and teen use of drugs and alcohol a serious concern for people," says principal William Ekey.
The cards are part of a new emphasis to bring attention to teen-age drinking and drug abuse, he says.
Last week the school held a memorial service for Susan McKay, a senior killed in July when her car was hit by a man police said was driving drunk.
Two women from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers who'd lost relatives in drunken driving accidents spoke at the assembly.
"That assembly had more impact on kids than any we've had in the six years I've been here," Ekey says. "The kids were spellbound, and the effects of drinking and driving were really driven home. The cards are just another way to publicize the problem."
How well they'll work is another question, many students say.
Barbara Ingrao, a freshman and a cheerleader, says students taking drugs won't bother to keep the cards, even with the incentive of discounts at local stores. "They're too lazy, and they're already into drugs. They wouldn't really care."
"Most of the kids I know who do drugs do not feel they have a major problem, so they could care less about a hot line," explains Shane Vienneau, a senior at the school. "It might help one or two."
But that one or two students who may be helped make the cards worth trying, says Curry. "If even one kid picks up that card and says, 'Here, let's call this, that's fine," she says. "That's one less problem, maybe."
Ad-Impact, a Mount Laurel, N.J., company, has provided the cards for free and sold advertising space on the back.
For the past three years, Ad-Impact has offered the program in Baltimore County. This year, it approached high schools in Harford. Bel Air High will become the first, and so far, the only county school to offer the cards.
The school's 1,150 students, along with teachers and staff, will receive the cards Wednesday, and the businesses involved will also be handing out the cards.
Card discounts range from a free order of fries at McDonald's with every sandwich ordered to 10 percent off at Preston's office supplies. Other businesses offering discounts include Gus's Pizza, Kefauver's Lumber, Ponderosa Steak House, Reach for the Beach clothing store, Sound Waves Record store and Vision Associates. The cards are valid until Oct. 31, 1991.
"The students seem really tickled with the idea," says Curry. "A person could save $100 during the year with the card."