Survey shows student support for alcohol control

By Tamar Weinberg
Published: Thursday, September 8, 2005
09/08/05 - According to a recent survey, students at the University of Rhode Island are aware of the dangerous consequences of drinking and driving and support increased intervention.

"[The results] are really stimulating because they support initiatives that enhance student safety," Dean of Students Fran Cohen said.

The survey was conducted in conjunction with the URI/ Narragansett Coalition and on-campus Greek organizations as a part of a five-year study funded by the National Institute of Health. Mark Wood, an associate professor of psychology and the principle investigator of the survey, said the project is designed to target the entire URI community and increase student awareness.

82 percent of the 511 full-time undergraduate students that were randomly chosen and contacted by members of the Common Ground Research Project, a university-based prevention program, agreed to participate. The survey was released Sept. 6 and showed a marked interest in reducing drunk driving and other alcohol related problems at URI.

According to the students surveyed, 93.9 percent supported increasing the availability of alternative transportation, 88.5 percent wanted more designated driver programs, 83.3 percent were in favor of enforcing stricter drinking and driving laws, 82.7 percent wanted increased training for bartenders to cut off intoxicated patrons and 61.3 percent supported requiring door personnel and bartenders to be at least 21 years of age.

Wood said he was surprised by students' interest in tougher laws and bartender training.

"We feel like it's important that students are aware of the levels of policy enforcement," he said.

Wood said Rhode Island has one of the highest occurrences of driving under the influence of alcohol. 33.8 percent of URI students were caught driving under the influence of alcohol, which is higher than the national average of 30.5 percent, according to the CORE Drug and Alcohol Survey.

In an effort to reduce levels of alcohol-related problems at URI, Cohen and Wood are launching RhodeMap to Safety, a campaign that would reduce underage drinking and drunken driving. The program seeks more non-alcoholic social events, stricter policy enforcement against driving under the influence and underage drinking and promotes designated driver programs within the campus community.

Cohen said the university is encouraging campus organizations to establish designated driving practices. The university is also promoting Rhody Rides, a volunteer-based program that will provide rides home for intoxicated students.

"This will provide us with the opportunity to have more environmental methods that would prevent drunk driving," Cohen said.