From the Editor: Unsafe under the influence

College is viewed as the best time in a young adult’s life. These are the years we are meant to learn and absorb as much information as we can in preparation for our futures. This is the time to be serious, of course, but also to have fun and be young. However, it can become easy to forget that these are also the years that we must be very careful.
Before we can even sign up for classes, Rider students are required to complete an online Alcohol Education course. We are taught about the effects of alcohol on our bodies. We are taught how to know when a friend might have had too much to drink and needs help. We are taught how to be safe. We must accept that we are not invincible and need to take responsibility for our actions.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2012, over 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in the United States – one person every 51 minutes. This translates to a scary fact: Thousands of people are driving drunk on a daily basis. But if we all know how bad it is to drive while intoxicated, why are so many people doing it?
Alcohol severely impairs judgment, allowing an otherwise rational person to get behind the wheel of a car while drunk. The Center for Student Health Promotion & Well-being reports that alcohol also causes impaired coordination and judgment of distance, weakened senses, blurred vision and slowed mental processing. With such a loss of control, it can be impossible to control a vehicle.
The situation can become even more problematic if the person driving is also combining substances. According to a study conducted by Drs. R. Andrew Sewell, James Poling and Mehmet Sofuoglu, marijuana has an active effect on alertness, perception of time and speed, and use of previously acquired knowledge. As the drug already impairs the senses vital to operating a vehicle, combining marijuana with alcohol can be a fatal mix. The same study states that the combination of alcohol and marijuana “results in [a driving] impairment even at doses that would be insignificant were they of either drug alone.”
Substance abuse and driving is becoming a hazardous epidemic. While the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in most states, it is not prohibited to drink if you are 21 or older. However, there is no reason to get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of one intoxicant, and it is far more dangerous to mix alcohol and marijuana.
Rider’s strict marijuana policies keep this in check. But as the legalization of recreational marijuana use spreads through the country, the combination of alcohol, marijuana and driving will become an increasingly common issue. However, there are always smart alternatives that students can take. Rider sponsors a program called “Safe Rides,” which allows students to call (609) 924-1756, to be picked up and brought back to campus between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. if they are intoxicated or feel unsafe for any reason. This service is free up to three times a semester.
Students can also ensure their safety by making sure they have a designated driver who does not consume any alcohol and is not under the influence in any way. If the situation gets desperate, you can always call a cab. A cab may be pricey, but with one person dying from an alcohol-related car accident every 51 minutes, it is worth every penny. Getting behind the wheel without a clear mind could easily cut your life short or force you to live with the guilt of harming someone else.
This is bigger than protecting yourself. Always try to protect those around you. Look after friends who have had too much to drink. Take the keys away from someone who is belligerently drunk or high but is trying to drive. Be the designated driver when no one else wants to, even if it’s at the expense of a few drinks. By stepping up and being responsible, you will protect the people you care about as well.
Eliseo Diaz is remembered at Rider among his friends as a funny, amiable young man. His life was just beginning as he was 13 days away from graduation and ready to work at an accounting firm. However, on May 3, the life of this bright student ended abruptly as Diaz struck a bus leaving campus. His toxicology report revealed that he had been drinking and had marijuana in his system as well.
Substance abuse is a problem facing many college students and is one that can be fatal when a car is added to the equation. Abusing substances can involve drinking heavily or delving into drugs. Statistics show that driving ability is severely impaired when drunk or high, and the combination of these substances is insane.
We should allow these years to be the best of our lives and not at the expense of our safety. After all, college is a time for making memories, not regrets.

The weekly editorial expresses the
majority opinion of The Rider News.
This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.


Printed in the 10/01/14 issue.

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