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GOHS grant to UNG will help educate young drivers

GOHS grant 2015
During an event to stress the importance of safety during Spring Break, a UNG student drives a remote-controlled car while wearing goggles that mimic alcohol-impaired vision.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) has received a $6,550 grant to participate in a Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) program aimed at reducing young driver crashes, injuries and fatalities.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014, 1,678 drivers aged 16 to 20 died in crashes. Additionally, 581 passengers in the same age range died while riding with drivers aged 16 to 20.

Sarah Williams, health educator for the Department of Student Health Services at UNG, said the GOHS grant continues to be instrumental in funding driver safety and alcohol awareness programs.  According to the CDC, in 2012, 23 percent of drivers aged 15-20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were drinking alcohol.

"It's well known that drinking in high-risk ways increases chances for consequences, including drinking and driving," Williams said. "Through the funds provided by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, we are able to hold events and activities on campus to better educate students of the dangers of drinking and driving and the consequences of binge drinking."

The grant also provides funding for student worker Abby Young, who will provide healthy lifestyle programming and activities on the university's Dahlonega Campus during the spring semester.

"Our biggest event this year will be our annual Safe Spring Break week in March," Young said. "Some focus points for this week are alcohol awareness and safety, along with sun protection, STD awareness, and others. Our main event that week will be our 'Luau in Chow' where we have the combined booths from the week set up. Students can come and get information packets, gifts, food, and play games that are themed towards participating in safe spring break activities. This event is one of the most important events that we put on for students throughout the year due to the population — whether the topic is high-risk drinking or tips for sun safety, the college population can benefit from it all."

GOHS works with colleges and universities throughout the state to implement the Georgia Young Adult Program (GYAP), which uses strategies like peer education, providing educational speakers to schools, and encouraging schools to develop innovative techniques to reduce crashes.

"The Governor's Office of Highway Safety is committed to changing the tragic trend of young adult driver deaths in Georgia," GOHS Director Harris Blackwood said. "We're here to make changes and I believe the students at the University of North Georgia can help us achieve the goal of lowering driver crash, injury and fatality rates statewide. Who better to address the challenges and dangers facing young adults than their peers? I'm confident these students can convince their peers to be safer, more conscientious drivers."

The grant funds activities from Oct. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2016.

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