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NHC and Constable’s office repeat spring break DWI demonstration

On Thursday March 7, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office in cooperation with the District Attorney’s Office, NHC’s Law Enforcement Academy and NHC’s criminal justice program, will repeat a wildly successful drinking and driving demonstration just in time for this year’s college spring break.

Community members, North Harris College students and NHC employees will witness the first-hand effects of drinking and driving during a unique driving while intoxicated (DWI) awareness event.

Participants of “Spring Break and DWI: An Alcohol Effects Awareness Event,” students and staff -all 21 years or older-will be given controlled doses of alcohol and then be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests. These are the same tests they will have to pass if a law enforcement officer stops them.

Like most holidays, spring break is a peak time for vehicle accidents – a majority of which involves alcohol. Since students are a large part of the demographics affected by alcohol-related accidents, North Harris College and the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s office is setting up this awareness program on campus.

“In 2001, there were 8,941 DWIs filed in Harris County. There has been 737 DWIs already filed in January of this year. This is up from 668 filed January 2001.

The problem is not going away. It is every public official’s duty to do everything possible to increase awareness to the consequences of drinking and driving. This exercise is directly focused on accomplishing that goal,” says Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman.

According to a 1999 article by Steven A. Bloch, Ph.D., a senior research associate in the public affairs division of the Automobile Club of Southern California, in Costa Mesa, CA., research has regularly found that levels of alcohol consumption and driving at institutions of higher education are at startlingly high levels, and increasing for some categories of students.

The Harvard School of Public Health recently corroborated this fact. (See Henry Wechsler, G. W. Dowdall, G. Maenner, J. Gledhill-Hoyt, H. Lee, Changes in Binge Drinking and Related Problems Among American College Students Between 1993 and 1997, 47 J. Am College Health 57-68 (Sept. 1998)). They found that, nationally in 1997, 27.9 percent of students reported becoming intoxicated three or more times in the previous 30 days. That rate was more than a 20 percent increase over the 22.9 percent intoxication rate in 1993. While the proportion of binge drinkers (42.7 percent) was slightly less than that found in the previous study (44.1 percent) the proportion of frequent binge drinkers rose 6 percent, from 19.5 percent in 1993 to 20.7 percent in 1997. (Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in a row for men, four for women.)
Rates of drinking and driving are also at levels that raise great concern and are showing notable increases among students who drink. The Harvard study reported that, in the past year, 35.8 percent of such students drove after drinking, compared to 31.6 percent in 1993, an increase of 13 percent. Levels of drinking and driving among binge drinkers are even more pronounced. Among occasional bingers in the latest survey, 43 percent drove after drinking; among frequent bingers the level was 59 percent.

“Most students don’t realize how little alcohol consumption it takes to impair their abilities. This demonstration gives them an opportunity to see how drinking impairs them, even below the legal limit,” says Mark Farrell, director for NHC’s law enforcement academy. “This is our second year for this spring break awareness campaign. It’s important for everyone, especially students, to know that a person who is using alcohol is in the least position to know how impaired they are.

Additionally, the penalty of being caught behind the wheel while intoxicated can be severe. There are an increasing number of local law officers who are working to make sure DWI offenders receive strict fines and charges.”

For more information about the March 7 event, call Mark Farrell at 281-618-1198.

North Harris College is a member of North Harris Montgomery Community College District.

The college is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one mile south of FM 1960, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads.

For more information, call 281-618-5400 or send an e-mail to:nhc.startcollege@nhmccd.edu
North Harris Montgomery Community College District, the fourth largest community college in Texas, comprises North Harris College, Kingwood College, Tomball College, Montgomery College, seven satellite centers and The University Center. Cy-Fair College, the district’s fifth comprehensive college, will open in fall 2003.