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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI's Common Ground launches RhodeMap to Safety campaign

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

New campaign to inform students about greater law enforcement and other efforts designed to prevent drunk driving and other alcohol-related problems

KINGSTON, R.I. -- September 14, 2005 -- URI's Common Ground, a university-based substance abuse prevention program, announced today the start of a new media campaign to reduce underage alcohol consumption, excessive drinking, and alcohol-impaired driving among URI students. The campaign, called RhodeMap to Safety, will make URI undergraduates more aware of existing URI rules, state DUI laws, and newly increased law enforcement efforts both on campus and in nearby towns.

"I care very deeply about this issue and the safety of our students," said URI President Robert L. Carothers. "We have a fundamental obligation to ensure that students know the rules and laws that govern the use of alcohol. I am confident that students will make safe and healthy decisions if they have all the facts in front of them, including the greater certainty of being caught and punished for alcohol-impaired driving."

The campaign is drawing attention to two Rhode Island laws. The first is the state's per se law, which makes it a crime to drive with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher. The second is the state's zero tolerance law, which makes it illegal for drivers under age 21 to drive with a blood alcohol level of .02 percent or higher. Past student surveys have revealed that many URI students are unaware of these laws.

Two URI rules are also being highlighted. The first is URI's parental notification policy. For students under age 21, parents or guardians are contacted after a second alcohol-related violation. Parents can be notified after a first violation if it involves more than one offense or is a serious incident. The second rule is URI�s three-strikes policy. Students who violate URI's alcohol and other drug policies a third time face suspension for two semesters.

Narragansett Chief of Police J. David Smith joined Carothers in making the announcement about the program's efforts. URI's Common Ground, working in conjunction with the Narragansett Youth Task Force/Narragansett SIG, has provided $34,000 to the Narragansett Police Department to support extra police patrols designed to combat drunken driving.

"All of us are on the same page here. Our goal is prevention through deterrence," said Chief Smith. RhodeMap to Safety materials will notify students that Narragansett is taking these new measures to deter illegal underage drinking and alcohol-impaired driving.

Common Ground has also provided additional funds to URI's Police Department to step up on-campus enforcement efforts. "No university campus should be viewed as an enclave that protects students from the consequences of their illegal behavior," said URI Director of Public Safety Robert F. Drapeau.

According to URI Student Senate Vice President Neil Cavanaugh, "RhodeMap to Safety demonstrates how much URI students care for one another's health and wellbeing by supporting tougher enforcement of policies related to alcohol incidents." Cavanaugh referred to a recent survey conducted by Associate Professor Mark Wood of the Psychology Department who is principal investigator of URI's research on college drinking, that found 83.3 percent of URI students in favor of increasing the enforcement of drinking and driving laws.

URI Student Teddy Gibbons, a member of URI's football team, also spoke in favor of the new campaign. "Students will support the RhodeMap to Safety campaign, because at the end of the day, all of us know that drunk driving and other alcohol-related problems can ruin a student's life, or even end it."

The new campaign will rely on a mix of advertising, events, and other campus-based communications to provide students this information. The campaign hit the ground running, with a paid advertisement in The Good Five-Cent Cigar, the URI student newspaper; public service announcements on the student radio station WRIU-FM; posters and flyers displayed around campus; and email messages to students from President Carothers.

Directed by URI Dean of Students Fran Cohen and Wood, Common Ground is a five-year project funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to support URI's ongoing prevention work with the Town of Narragansett and URI's Greek community. Future activities being planned include a Cooperating Tavern program for bars and taverns in Narragansett that abide by principles of responsible beverage service, a companion Cooperating Package Store program, and designated driver and other safe ride initiatives.

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 to read more about the research underway.

For more information about the Narragansett-URI Coalition

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