Editorial 4/21: College students need to be pushed to make smart choices while driving

By the Editorial Board

In the wake of the lethal car accident that occurred on Sunday, April 9, The Griffin is saddened by the result of this preventable accident. Although the case is currently still under investigation, the cause of this accident makes us reflect on many of the irresponsible behaviors exhibited by college students while operating a moving vehicle. This traumatic experience brings to light the reality of the consequences of the behaviors that we so easily and frequently push to the side, whether it be texting and driving, drinking and driving, or simply driving while extremely tired or generally distracted.

Infatuated with in-the-moment feelings of invincibility and motivated by the looming fear of adult life and real responsibility, those in their late teens and early twenties are some of the largest perpetrators of preventable car accidents.

Drinking and driving accounts for 31 percent of all car-related fatalities, while phone use while operating a vehicle account for 25 percent of all total accidents, and it is believed that “drowsy” drivers have accounted for another 20 percent of all fatal crashes.

All of us know that drinking and driving and texting and driving is wrong. Messages from grade school seminars echo in our heads and flinch-inducing commercials of teenagers being rammed by airbags and flung into windows are embedded in our heads. Undoubtedly, drunk and distracted driving is irresponsible, illegal, and in many cases, lethal.

Despite being aware of the laws and implications of these activities, a large portion of college-aged students still do it. One study from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health found that 20-percent of students has admitted to drinking in driving and a whopping 80-percent text and drive.

These numbers are unacceptable.

Our behavior influences those around us and when we act self-centered and limitless, we are putting those at risk who have a much greater responsibilities and larger things to lose. Beyond potentially injuring ourselves, we are potentially endangering the lives of small children, the elderly, and those who have other people relying on them for their care and financial support.

Our actions make an impact and as men and women for others, and it’s time we start focusing on the greater implications of our actions. Not just because we can be held legally accountable for our poor decisions, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, engaging in risky behavior is seen as a staple of the quintessential college career. The media shows students as often binge-drinking lethal amounts of alcohol from shared bottles at house parties, combining alcohol with over- the-counter and prescription drugs, taking untested drugs from near-strangers, and having unprotected sex with non-monogamous partners. Challenge yourself to think of an entertaining movie about college-aged persons who aren’t at one point or another doing something illegal.

Beyond our own psychology, which is programmed to make more impulsive and irresponsible decisions at this age, the media’s role in how college students are depicted affects how we envision ourselves and plays a role in what behaviors we find to be acceptable. While these are by no means excuses for bad behavior, they certainly plays a part in the grand scheme of things.

Beyond this most recent accident, the statistics alone prove that we need to be reminded of the consequences of our behavior. We might no longer need D.A.R.E. programs or parental lectures, but sometimes an educational push from our friends, peers and colleagues  is beneficial.

The Griffin suggests that, when thinking of future programming in years to come, the undergraduates of this College consider implementing more events to encourage students to make the right decision. This could be pursued in a way that is more lighthearted and fun, like a cocktail bar with a panel of speakers, giving incentives to students who complete driving courses, bringing in speakers whose lives have been impacted by irresponsible driving, reiterating the consequences of phone use while driving, or having clubs compete in “beer goggle Olympics.” We need to do more than simply advocate against a certain behavior; we need to educate, inform, and reward behavior that’s right.

At Canisius, we can create a culture where we think about the long and short-term effects of our actions and where students who don’t are encouraged to act differently. So, let’s reinforce what we know and continue to fill in the gaps, and maybe The Griffin won’t feel compelled to write an article about this topic again.

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