Alcohol use, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, kills 4,300 underage teens each year—that’s more than all illegal drugs combined.
Almost 17 percent of the teens in a survey admitted to riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
Among male underage drivers who were involved in fatal crashes more than 20 percent had been drinking.
Those are statistics that one group of Lassiter High School students aimed to stop. This year ahead of the school’s prom, Lassiter’s HOSA-Future Health Professionals Club partnered with the Cobb County Police Department and Ford Motor Company to highlight the dangers of drunk driving.
Ford representatives fastened Lassiter volunteers into the company’s Drunk Driving Suit, which mimics the effects of being under the influence, such as reducing the wearer’s mobility and coordination. The suit comes with goggles to reduce and impair visibility, headphones to reduce hearing, and several joint limiters. Ford developed the Drunk Driving Suit so people could gain a first-hand understanding of how difficult it is to function while under the influence of alcohol.
After a student suited up, Cobb County Police Officer Fernando Pharr lined the student up for a mock-sobriety test in the parking lot of the school. Most students were confident that they would be able to easily walk the line and pass the officer’s sobriety test. They were wrong.
They stumbled. They put out their arms to try to catch their balance. They grabbed the officer’s arm to stop from falling.
“I couldn’t even stand, let alone take the nine steps Officer Pharr wanted me to take,” said Lassiter High School HOSA leader Neel Iyer. “There is no way I would have passed a sobriety test in that condition.”
Officer Pharr’s test took the students through the same process they would experience should they be pulled over for being suspected of driving under the influence. It was designed to assess the student’s level of impairment and subsequent ability to drive, and ultimately educate the students about the dangers of drunk driving.
Two of the student volunteers even dressed up in prom attire to further remind their fellow students to never drink and drive.
Before the students underwent field sobriety tests, Officer Pharr shared a video of someone who could personally attest to the devastating effects of drunk driving. The video is titled “I killed a man.”
Beyond the deadly effects associated with drunk driving, these are some of the other consequences of underage drinking:
- School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
- Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
- Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
- Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
- Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
- Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
- Physical and sexual assault.
- Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
- Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
- Memory problems.
- Abuse of other drugs.
- Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
- Death from alcohol poisoning.