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UNG receives grant to promote safety for young drivers

GOHS 2014-15 grant
A student tries to steer a remote control car while wearing goggles that simulate drunken vision during an event on UNG's Dahlonega Campus designed to make students aware of the dangers of drunk driving.

The University of North Georgia has received a $6,900 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011, more than 2,500 drivers aged 16-19 were killed and nearly 300,000 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle injuries.

Sarah Williams, health educator for the Department of Student Health Services at UNG, said the grant continues to be instrumental in funding 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 during the upcoming spring semester.

"One of our biggest events coming up is our Safe Spring Break week, which promotes healthy and positive choices to make during spring break. We hold events for the whole week preceding spring break in March, which includes events such as a 'Mocktail Hour' and driving simulations with 'drunk goggles,'" Young said. "Every event that week is focused on making safe drinking choices and promoting smart actions to take in order to help someone who may be under the influence of alcohol while preventing possible injuries/accidents."

Young said that Student Health Services also holds Alcohol Awareness week in the fall semester where they continue to promote safe drinking choices. The event includes booths that educate about proper portion-sized drinks and how to handle a situation in which a friend may be severely impaired due to alcohol. They also stress the importance of the consequences of drinking and driving and how students can avoid dangerous situations.

"I think many students, whether of legal drinking age or not, come into contact with alcohol at some point while in college and I believe that it is important to educate them as much as possible on how to make the right decisions in the right place and time," Young said. "With the funds provided by the GOHS grant, we are able to reach more students with bigger events and provide them with information and incentive items to remind them of both the consequences and proper actions to take if they are faced with an alcohol-related situation."

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, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015.

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