Safety panel joining effort to cut drinking

March 30, 2003

The Harford County Highway Safety Committee is cooperating with five Central Maryland jurisdictions in a campaign to reduce drinking and driving among college students.

Area police departments also will be looking for drunken drivers with added patrols and checkpoints through early next month, during the college spring break season.

"The use of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle creates a danger and hardship not only for the young driver, but for all Harford County citizens," said Kathy Acquavella, Harford County's highway safety coordinator.

"In order to make a significant impact in reducing these incidents, an aggressive and coordinated effort by many Harford County agencies will take place, " she said.

Baltimore and four counties, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Cecil and Howard, are taking part in the campaign.

Also participating are the Central Maryland Regional Safe Communities Center and the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; local law enforcement; the Central Maryland Regional College Consortium; the State Highway Administration; State Farm Insurance; and the Maryland Rangers at Rocks and Susquehanna state parks.

The program also will include Maryland law enforcement agencies, medical officials and local alcohol retailers in the effort to distribute alcohol awareness literature to young adults through 10 local colleges, bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

"Active law enforcement along with a strong education and public awareness campaign has proven to be one of the greatest deterrents to impaired driving not only in Harford County, but other jurisdictions as well," Acquavella said.

Studies published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol have found that nearly 1,400 college students ages 18 to 24 die each year in alcohol-related accidents, including motor vehicle crashes. Many of the injuries occur when students are involved in "high-risk" drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting. Several national surveys indicate that about two of every five college students have engaged in such drinking during the previous two weeks.

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