50th Edition, Lifestyle

Boozing & cruising: drunk driving persists over the years

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Steven Epstein, Volume 17
September 27, 1977

In the last two years, four Newton South students have been killed in driving accidents while under the influence of alcohol. Four young adults have lost their lives needlessly due to carelessness combined with the effects of alcohol.
Alcohol abuse, described by South’s Driver Education Director Norman S. Swerling as, “the absolute number one health problem in both the schools and society today,” is clearly increasing among the 16-20 year old age group.
This problem has been apparent at South. In addition to the irreplaceable loss of four members of our student body, many other students have been injured (one to the point to partial paralyzation) due to the accidents cause by drunk drivers.
Drunk driving is certainly a difficult problem for every city in the country. There seem to be two key reasons for the overall alcohol abuse that leads to drunk driving.
First, is the availability of liquor. There are package stores in every part of the city, which will sell alcoholic beverages to customers under 18.
Secondly, many parents in Newton, remembering their adolescence, feel that alcohol abuse by their children is far better than another possibility, drug abuse.
Many feel that because they drank when they were in high school, it is all right for their children to do the same.
The difference is that twenty years ago, the average high school student had little access to a car. However, in Newton of 1977, the accessibility of a car by the majority of motor vehicles has been, and will continue to be a deadly one.
Of the four accidents that resulted in student fatalities, two occurred in Newton- one in front of the school. Both drivers had been drinking. One was extremely drunk, the other was not legally drunk.
One accident occurred on Beacon St., just beyond Four Corners. The driver was killed, and two of the three pasangers were seriously injured.
The other accident involved a borrowed motorcycle. The young driver was attempting to pass a car illegally at an excessive rate of speed, was hit by the car, and killed by the impact of the crash.
Norm Swerling is looking for answers that will stop these unnecessary deaths. He is concerned and upset over the alcohol problem but is optimistic. “Although more people are drinking,” he commented, “more people are drinking intelligently.”
Swerling feels that there are preventive measures that can helpt. “I feel it’s foolish to end a kid’s education before he’s a licensed driver, and before he really knows what it’s all about,” said Swerling.
He advocates that the 30 hours of classroom study in Driver Education be distributed differently.
He believes the Driver Education should be modified to allow 20 hours of study before licensing and 10 hours after the driver has been driver for four to six months. This is so that the students and instructor can, “talk as equals”.
 Mr. Swerling feels that there are two other steps to the elimination of drunken driving at the high school level. He advocates raising the legal drinking age to 19 to, “get it at least out of the high school.”
Finally, he feels that a misconception should be cleared up. He says it’s not only high school juniors and seniors who have alcohol abuses problems. Says Swerling, “The problem of alcohol reaches through and beyond the high school and junior high. It is even touching some within the fifth and sixth grades.”
Clearly alcohol abuse is a problem. When it takes to our highways, it is a nightmare.

By Denebola Staff, Volume 27
January 14, 1988

A drunk driver describes past experiences: the following is an interview with an ‘80s South student who admits to having driven while he or she was drunk.

Has a friend ever physically stopped you from driving when you were intoxicated?
No, but some have made attempts. Once, he stood in front of me but I ended up driving anyway. Usually, they just say “don’t do this,” and leave it at that.

If you know you’re going to get drunk before you go out, do you make provisions beforehand so that you won’t be the one driving?
If I go out with my car, there will be stipulation that if I get rip-roaring drunk, I will not drive home. If I have had a couple and am over the limit, I will drive.
I’ve driven to places besides home when I was over the limit. If you’re at a party and you’re hungry or want to get cigarettes, you just go out and get it. You’re already drunk, so you don’t have to worry about it. I’ve never been completely incoherent while driving.

Is there a moment of indecision before you take the wheel under the influence?
If you’re stupid enough to actually drive drunk, you don’t hesitate. You just don’t care.

By Jesse Zhang, Volume 48
October 29, 2008

A community-wide open forum will take place at South in response to the three Columbus day weekend car accidents involving South students driving under the influence.
South Prevention and Intervention counselor Rich Cantrambone feels it is important to have dialogue about setting limits and using a family strategy. “We want to offer concrete suggestions,” Cantrambone said.
Salzer wants to design a “program for parents” and promote the discussion about teens, drinking, and driving,
Salzer would like to discuss how parents could help their kids deal with difficult situations in which responsible young adults hold a party beyond their control. He also wants to talk about kids violating the terms of their junior operator licenses.
“What I hear happens is some of the adults turn a blind eye to it, as long as the kids are safe and don’t drive. I think the culture of the community is—we know you’re going to do it, so let’s be smart about it,” Salzer said.

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