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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI's Common Ground releases survey showing firm student support for stricter alcohol control policies and enforcement

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

Overwhelming endorsement for tougher approach to drinking and driving surprises research team

KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 14, 2005 -- University of Rhode Island students want campus and local authorities to increase enforcement efforts and develop new programs to address the problem of drinking and driving, according to a new survey released recently by Common Ground, a university-based substance abuse prevention program. Alcohol-impaired driving is the leading cause of death among U.S. college students.

"Our students have given us a clear message," said URI President Robert L. Carothers. "They care about student health and safety every bit as much as university officials do. URI students are serious about their education, and they want us to continue providing a campus and community environment that will help them achieve their personal goals."

The telephone survey was conducted one year ago, with 511 randomly selected URI undergraduates responding to questions about their drinking; 82 percent of the students contacted agreed to participate.

Several policy and enforcement strategies were favored by a clear majority of the survey respondents:

-- Increasing the availability of alternative transportation in town, including cabs, buses, and safe ride programs, by 93.9 percent

-- Increasing the use of designated driver programs, by 88.5 percent

-- Increasing enforcement of drinking and driving laws, by 83.3 percent

-- Training bartenders to cut off intoxicated patrons, by 82.7 percent

-- Requiring door personnel and bartenders to be at least 21 years of age, by 61.3 percent

Two additional policies received near-majority support: holding hosts responsible for problems arising from alcohol use, by 49.3 percent; and applying stricter penalties for the use of false IDs, by 45.4 percent.

"We have known for a long time that most URI students use alcohol responsibly," said Associate Professor Mark Wood of the Psychology Department, principal investigator for the survey, "but the level of their support for tougher action against drinking and driving still took us by surprise." Wood directs "Environmental Methods for Reducing College Drinking," a five-year, $3.5 million study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

"We also know that Rhode Island as a whole has among the worst drunk driving statistics in the U.S. It's a big problem, and that's why URI students support tougher enforcement of the state's drinking and driving laws," Wood added.

Dean of Students Fran Cohen and Wood also announced the launch of RhodeMap to Safety, a new campaign to reduce underage alcohol consumption, excessive drinking, and alcohol-impaired driving among URI students. The campaign begins this fall and will focus on making URI undergraduates more aware of existing URI rules, state laws governing drunken driving, and current enforcement efforts both on campus and in nearby towns.

"The new campaign's overriding goal is to provide for the well-being of URI students by creating a safe and healthy campus," said Cohen, who also directs Common Ground, URI's NIAAA-funded project that supports ongoing prevention work with the Town of Narragansett and on-campus Greek coalitions.

The University of Rhode Island is known as a leader in national efforts to reduce underage alcohol consumption, excessive drinking, and alcohol-impaired driving among college students. In 2002, President Carothers completed three years of service on NIAAA's Committee on Campus Drinking, which culminated with the publication of a research agenda for the nation. In 2004, Carothers received a College Leadership Award from the Center for College Health and Safety to recognize URI's "no tolerance" policy toward violence and drug and alcohol abuse.

Click here for more about the RhodeMap to Safety campaign.

For more information about the Narragansett-URI Coalition

For background about URI's alcohol-related research, policies and programs.