College Student DWIs Up in New Jersey, U.S. Says Drug and Alcohol Report

Apparently, driving while intoxicated is still high on the curriculums of New Jersey’s university students. Based on information coming out of Little Falls, NJ, a recent study shows drunk driving — as well as binge drinking — continues to be a problem with college-age adults, here and across the nation. According to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, driving under the influence of alcohol among undergraduates increased from 26.5 percent to 29 percent between 1998 and 2005, while alcohol-related deaths rose about three percent.

Binge drinking may be a major factor in this trend, as the report also showed that the percentage of students who pursued this activity while attending school increased from approximately 42 percent to 45 in the seven years from 1998 to 2005. The increase in binge drinking — defined as five or more drinks on any one occasion — occurred primarily in students ages 21 to 24, according to the study.

Published in the July special issue of the journal, it shows the percentage of students aged 18 to 24 who drove drunk increased by nearly three percentage points between 1999 and 2005. Similarly, those engaged in binge drinking rose from 41.7 percent to 44.7 percent, according to Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., M.P.H., and his colleagues. The study was one of 14 published in the special supplement, which focuses on college drinking problems.

To assess the magnitude of alcohol problems, the researchers looked at data on 18- to 24-year-olds from 1999 through 2005 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Coroner Studies, census and college enrollment data, and the College Alcohol study. Researchers said that the “persistence of college drinking problems underscores an urgent need to implement prevention and counseling approaches.”

Most disturbing, the report points out that among 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., injuries are the leading cause of death, and alcohol is the leading contributor, being a factor in more than 5,000 deaths in that age group each year. To put that number in perspective, the authors added, it exceeds the total number of U.S. soldiers who have died in the war in Iraq.

The “good” news, so to speak, is that much of the increase in drunk driving may have been posted in the first half of the study period; the 2005 figure of 28.9 percent is actually a significant eight-percent decrease from the 31.4 percent recorded in 2002.

Researchers added that “colleges and communities in which they are located must work together to change the culture of drinking…in order to achieve optimal declines in alcohol-related problems.”

Binge Drinking, Drunk Driving Up on Campus, MedPageNews.com, June 15, 2009