Western Md. students promote alcohol awareness during break @

March 16, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Before Western Maryland College students left for the annual partying rite known as Spring Break, they got a sobering reminder from a campus alcohol awareness and education group: Don't drink and drive.

The Western Maryland chapter of Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students staged its second annual "Safe Spring Break" campaign last week before the college's 1,200 undergraduates took off for Cancun, Key West, Daytona Beach or home.

The week-long program included a "Ghost Day," during which students or staff members "killed" by drunk drivers spent the day in silence; a pool party; WMC Squares, an adaptation of Hollywood Squares with faculty and staff members in the squares: and a "Hard Mock Cafe" dance featuring "mocktails" such as pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris without rum.

"The whole week is basically to show you can have fun without alcohol," said Kathleen "Blue" Taylor, vice president of BACCHUS and campaign organizer.

Ms. Taylor, 20, is a junior from Carlisle, Pa., majoring in theater.

BACCHUS doesn't proselytize for abstinence from alcohol, but urges students not to drink and drive.

The organization has chapters on college campuses throughout the nation.

Ms. Taylor had a personal reason for joining BACCHUS and accepting responsibility for planning the alcohol awareness program.

"I had a really good friend die," she said. "He was on his bike and a drunk driver ran over him. The driver heard a noise, so he backed up and ran over [the bicyclist] again."

The BACCHUS members started ghost day hoping to enlist 65 volunteers to "die" at the hands of a drunk driver, a number equal to the national death toll every 24 hours from alcohol-related accidents, based on statistics from the Fatal Accident Report Service. FARS reports that one person dies every 22 minutes in an accident involving alcohol.

Some 73 Western Maryland students agreed to have a white tear painted on their faces and to wear buttons saying, "Every 22 minutes . . ."

The "dead" were required to spend the day without communicating with anyone. They were not excused from attending classes, taking tests or handing in papers.

"It was hard," said Brian Irons, 19, a freshman from Sykesville. "At lunch, three of us were silent and three were talking."

He said he volunteered because he opposes drinking.

He is a member of Fool Proof, an improvisational theater group of Carroll teens that takes an anti-drug and alcohol message into local schools.

Ginger Sisson, 20, a sophomore from St. Leonard, said she also found it difficult to give up communication.

"A couple people asked why we weren't talking, and one girl kept on asking. She kept on calling my name," Ms. Sisson said.

Finally, another student who knew about the program explained that Ms. Sisson was "dead."

Students who participated in Ghost Day said they thought the activity succeeded in raising awareness.

"It's a good thing to remind people and keep them aware of alcohol-related deaths," said Kent Lightbourn, 22, a senior from Nassau in the Bahamas.

The effectiveness of individual programs such as BACCHUS' campaign would be hard to measure, said First Sgt. Steve Reynolds, the Westminster state police barracks' liaison to Carroll County's public schools.

"The problem with students is that a lot of them feel immortal. They don't realize they can get hurt, they can get killed," Sergeant Reynolds said. "But I do think it's much more on their minds than it was 10 or 15 years ago."

Annie Powell, executive director of the Central Maryland chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said she didn't know of any studies that have attempted to assess the effect of programs like Ghost Days, but said she believes they have an impact on students.

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