An increase in reports of underage drinking in James College at Stony Brook University forced the organization of a drug and alcohol awareness program held Monday with the help of the university’s police department.
“More than 1,500 college students die each year from alcohol related injuries,” said Officer Vito Colella as the 25 attendees listened attentively. The event included a discussion of the effects alcohol and drugs have on your body following a video showing some facts about alcohol and drug use.
“There has been an increase in underage drinking and the use of drugs in the building,” said Resident Assistant Li Zheng, 22. “We wanted to bring this program here to help educate students about why they should make smarter choices.”
A field sobriety test demonstration was conducted by Officer Colella to show those in attendance what getting breath tested for alcohol for by a cop would entail. “Doesn’t mouthwash or cough medicine have an affect on someone’s BAC?” asked Senior Andrew Broussard. The officers said products like cough medicine or mouth wash increase an individual’s blood alcohol concentration. However, a person’s BAC quickly diminishes after a few minutes of using those products.
“We try to be very relaxed at these events,” said Colella. “We don’t want these kids thinking we’re tough guy cops because then they won’t open up to us.”
Ten students took part in a demonstration simulating the feeling of walking a straight line drunk using beer goggles. “This is crazy. I’m so off-balanced,” one participant yelled. The goggles, which appear to be nothing more than safety goggles, when put on represent blood alcohol levels up to two times the legal driving limit. “Anything over .05 in New York State falls under the zero tolerance policy,” said recent police graduate Officer Steven Kiefer. The zero tolerance policy says that any person under the legal drinking age of 21 may not have alcohol in their system. The specifics of the law vary from state to state. In New York State, a DWI warrants a fine of $1,000 and up to a year in prison for a first offense. “Over the course of your life, a DWI will end up costing you between 20 and 40 thousand dollars,” said Watson. “It’s just not worth it.” Watson clarified his statement and said the lifetime cost of a DWI takes into consideration possible loss of employment and income, as well as legal fees.
The officers claimed to be open and honest about their childhoods with the students as well. “We know you guys do things and we’re trying to be realistic,” said Colella. “But we just want you to be smart about it.”
According to Colella, being smart includes knowing when to get help if you are in a dangerous situation. “If your friend is passed out from drinking, turn them on their side and get help,” said Colella. “Especially because the chance of you getting in trouble on this campus for saving a friend’s life is next to nothing.”
A quick talk about marijuana followed the lesson on alcohol. “My dad smokes marijuana for medicinal purposes and it’s been proven to help him,” said Senior Andrew Broussard, 23. “I think they should legalize marijuana to help people like my dad.”
Upon request, any residential building on campus can schedule the program with the police departments’ community relations team. “We hold these events whenever colleges request them,” said Officer Jeff Watson. “Sometimes there are large turnouts, sometimes small. It’s up to the RA’s [Resident Assistants] to advertise the program.”
Officers Watson and Colella then talked about the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and felt it is a good idea as well. “I think within 20 years it [marijuana] will be legal in New York for medicinal purposes,” said Watson confidently.
Officer Colella left the event attendees with a word of advice about drinking. “Always make sure you have a designated driver. I got married so that I would always have a designated driver,” Colella said jokingly.