First Posted: 5/9/2009
Nearly 1,000 DWIs occurred each year in Surry County between 2002 and 2006. From 2001 to 2006, there were 759 reported alcohol-related automobile crashes in Surry. And from 2001 to 2006, just in parking lots, there were 19 alcohol-involved automobile crashes in the county.
These are facts posted on billboards around Surry County thanks to funding from the federal government being filtered to the county through the state. The money provides $100,000 each year for three years to research, create and implement a program to focus on driving while impaired and underage drinking in Surry County. The county received an additional $50,000 recently to add more emphasis on underage drinking this summer.
For more than a year, a committee of concerned Surry County citizens have been meeting to develop a campaign to target drinking and driving as well as underage drinking.
Surry County is one of a number of counties in North Carolina to receive the funding, including neighboring Stokes County.
The project, formally named the Surry County Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant, actually began with research in the fall of 2007, according to Jamie Edwards, who is the point person coordinating the campaign for the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) in Surry County.
Implementation of the CAP initiatives then began in October 2008, but the official campaign, which is called Project Connect the Dots, will kick off on May 28 during a presentation of a 45 to 60 minute documentary recorded in Surry County.
The documentary highlights the process of DWI treatment from start to finish, Edwards explained, from the time a person is pulled over or a wreck occurs to the charges and arrest to the court procedures and sentencing. It includes a number of local personalities who helped by playing roles in the video, including local emergency services and rescue personnel, law enforcement, lawyers, district attorney personnel and judges.
This is really the first time in this county a group had a task to focus on collecting research on drinking and driving, Edwards explained. We are trying to encourage folks to come on May 28, and let people know this project is out there.
This is something real hard to address in your own county, because people dont want to talk about it because it doesnt affect them until it happens to them and then its too late, he said.
CAP members are expecting a large youth turnout on May 28, though. We had so much youth involvement in the videos and process, as well as law enforcement and others, but we want some community members as well.
In addition to the documentary, for which a movie trailer is available on the campaigns Web site, www.projectconnectthedots.info, the group has also posted billboards around the county; recorded six public service announcements which will air on local radio stations; created three audio service announcements with the help of Brack Llewellyn and members of Mount Airy High Schools Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) club; made a three-minute video which will air on the Web site; and done an eight-minute infomercial with Surry EMS in which a teen party was staged and the process of EMS being called, the transportation of the patient to the hospital, the funeral and the results.
Those attending the documentary presentation on May 28, which will be emceed by radio personality Debbie Cochran and director/actor Brack Llewellyn, will receive a free copies of all of the campaign videos and the documentary. Also, the first 200 people through the doors of the Downtown Cinema on Main Street in Mount Airy, where the kick off is being held, will receive free popcorn and drinks.
Special guest David Browning, as the Mayberry Deputy, will be on hand to help kick off the event. Also, door prizes and goodies will be given out during the kick-off presentation.
Project Connect the Dots, which is the adult campaign, has three goals: combat the perception that alcohol is not as dangerous as other drugs; address a lack of knowledge regarding penalties around providing alcohol to minors; and educate the community about the likelihood of getting caught drinking and driving and potential consequences.
It is a domino strategy, Edwards said. These strategies are specific to the information we gathered in Surry County.
Part of the domino strategy includes encouraging people to follow the 0-1-2 low-risk consumption guidelines. This is:
0 Zero alcohol for people who are under 21; pregnant, trying to become pregnant or breastfeeding; operating any type of vehicle or machinery; recovering alcoholics or drug dependent; and using certain medications.
1 No more than one standard drink per day for women. A standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.
2 No more than two standard drinks per day for men.
Another focus of the campaign is encouraging people to count their drinks. One information card provided explains that with each drink there is a deterioration of judgment, alertness, self-control, reasoning and memory. It becomes harder to detect danger and decision-making skills become impaired.
Edwards said to target another concern the group has, underage drinking, a program will be provided this summer at some of the countys middle schools. The program will work toward preventing underage drinking and will include a poster contest.
All of the efforts with kids have involved kids. The kids are telling us what programs they are interested in and what they think will effectively battle underage drinking, Edwards said. Those ages 15 to 19 make up five percent of the countys population, and they are involved in 11 percent of the countys alcohol-involved crashes whether they were the driver, a passenger or a victim in an oncoming car.
This is a serious issue were worried about.
Also, he said, many people dont realize the majority of wrecks involving alcohol occur on two-lane roads outside the city limits where there are no street lights. And they occur on average around 5 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Some of the comments made during surveys taken by members of the community include:
Youth and parents who see providing alcohol to minors as cool
Some do not see anything wrong with drinking and driving
Parents think hosting alcohol parties will safely prepare teens going away to college where drinking will go on
Parents need to know that service alcohol to youth is not permissible
Community exhibits frequent lack of caring or concern for drunk driving until the event hits personally or within the family
Many see nothing wrong with drinking, some see nothing wrong with drinking and driving
Many, regardless of age, believe they will not get caught while drinking and driving
Odds of getting caught drinking and driving are low
Many believe that if caught, they can live with the consequences
Drivers frequently do not realize they have had too much to drink
Younger Hispanic males do not understand the law and think they can drive and drink like they do in Mexico
Some consider driving around while drinking recreation
Drinking at a friends or family members home and driving home afterwards is common
Information provided by CAP also provides exactly what the domino effect of drinking includes based on a persons blood-alcohol level:
At .03-.12 Sensory motor impairment; slowed information processing
At .09-.25 Loss of critical judgment
At .18-.30 Disorientation, mental confusion; lack of muscular coordination
At .25-.40 Approaching loss of motor functions
At .35-.50 Unconsciousness; possible death
At. 45-plus Death from respiratory arrest
CAP also emphasizes why the community should be concerned with the issue, citing other studies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Alcohol-related car crashes are the third leading cause of death in adults and the number one cause of death in teenagers.
Over 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who had been drinking.
Over 400,000 college students had unprotected sex and more than 100,000 students report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex.
CAP provides other videos and large amounts of information and facts on the groups Web site, www.projectconnectthedots.info.
The kick-off for the Project Connect the Dots campaign will be May 28 at the Downtown Cinema on Main Street in Mount Airy at 6 p.m.
Contact Wendy Byerly Wood at [email protected] or 719-1923.