College students are bombarded with messages not to drink and drive. They’re the targets of web and TV ads, posters, and awareness campaigns. They have made an impression – drinking and driving is less prevalent than it used to be in past decades. However, people in the 18-25 age range are still the worst offenders. Any effort to make a serious dent in the drunk driving numbers will have to involve young adults.
A group of UNC-Charlotte students are trying to do just that, by persuading their fellow students to get involved by pledging not to drink and drive. The students behind the campaign were friends of Dana Wilson and Ryan Menke, two 18-year-olds who were recently killed in a drunk driving crash.
The students intend their pledge drive to achieve three purposes:
- Make their fellow students stop and think before they decide to drink and drive
- Commemorate the lives of their friends, and raise money to aid the families
- Bring about stronger, more effective North Carolina DWI laws
The third item relates to the fact that the driver who killed the students had two previous DWI charges – one had been dismissed – and other offenses on his record. Their petition asks for felony charges for a second DWI, and longer revocations for multiple offenses.
We would suggest adding one more way to strengthen North Carolina DWI laws: a stipulation involving ignition interlocks –car breathalyzer devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. North Carolina should mandate the use of an ignition interlock for all DWI offenses, including first offenses, and that the device should only be removed when the offender has passed a certain number of months with no failed tests. This is called compliance-based removal.
Few things are as tragic to witness as bright young people who are cut down by someone who made the reckless choice to drink and drive. The UNCC pledge drive is an admirable way to channel the sorrow and anger into the constructive end of preventing further DWI deaths in North Carolina.