The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

SE seminar warns against binge drinking

By Meredith Lynd/reporter

SE Campus students recently learned the harsh reality of binge drinking and driving.

Bob Phanelson, a SE counselor, introduced a panel of three experts in their fields: Tom Dombroski, a Medical Center of Arlington nurse; Tom Peoples, Mothers Against Drunk Driving; a Federal Air Marshal Service representative and Officer Spence Williams from the Arlington Police Department.

Phanelson opened with a PowerPoint presentation, defining binge drinking as five drinks in one episode for men and four drinks in one episode for women.

He also noted that 2.1 million students age 18-24 have driven while under the influence of alcohol in the past six months.

“You’re a danger to yourself, and you’re a danger to others,” he said.

Dombroski, who has more than 30 years of nursing experience, said he has seen many people brought into the hospital for treatment after being in alcohol-related crashes.

“A lot of people end up paralyzed, and sometimes it’s worse when you live through it,” he said.

“Everybody thinks, ‘It won’t happen to me,’” Dombroski said, “but the harsh reality is that it can happen to anyone.”

Dombroski said alcohol affects just about every system in the body, especially the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Drinking too much can cause people to throw up blood, bloat up and have rectal bleeding.

Many of the injuries people get when alcohol is involved are completely preventable, Dombroski said. Many people get into fights when they drink too much and end up hurting each other, oftentimes, killing someone. None of these actions probably would have happened sober.

Peoples said every 40 minutes, one person dies in a motor vehicle crash, and 80 percent of the drivers in fatal crashes have a blood alcohol content over .08.

“Impaired driving is the No. 1 most committed violent crime in the United States,” he said. “Binge drinkers make up 20 percent of the population, but they drink 80 percent of the alcohol.”

Peoples showed a video of a man getting a sobriety test on the side of the road. A police officer put down a piece of tape for him to walk a straight line on, and as the man knelt down to secure the tape to the ground, he fell completely forward onto the ground.

When audience members started laughing, Peoples said that was a normal reaction for many.

“But when you really think about it, where was he just a minute before that? Behind the wheel putting you and your families in danger,” he said. “Time is the only thing that will sober you up.”

A common myth claims food or coffee or even a shower will sober someone up, but Peoples said time was the only thing that would really help.

“Know your limits,” he said. “Know when to say no.”

Peoples said 12,998 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in 2007. He said if 34 Boeing 747 airplanes crashed and killed everyone on board, it would be a comparable number.

He asked students what would happen to the company that flew the aircraft that killed so many people. Everyone agreed the company would go out of business.

“So why are people continuing to drink and drive?” he asked. “It doesn’t make sense.”

In 1998 when Peoples was a highway patrolman, the department received several calls reporting a drunken driver heading south on Interstate 35. Finally, the drunken driver made it to Highway 190, where he was patrolling. He was called to the scene.

He said he chased the driver for a long time, watching him swerve into oncoming traffic and finally crashing into another vehicle. The car he hit held a man, a woman and two young children.

One of the children, a 5-year-old boy, died at the scene. Peoples later found out that this little boy was the son of one of his close friends.

“If only I’d have been able to stop the driver before he hit that car,” he said.

Peoples said he could barely live with himself and blamed himself for the death of this child.

“The worst part of my job was knocking on doors of families in the early morning hours and telling them their loved one had died in an alcohol-related crash,” he said.

Peoples showed a short video with graphic pictures of car accidents caused by drunken drivers.

Memorials were also shown as well as a crash which left a car in two completely separate pieces.

Williams, a member of the DWI unit, said that Arlington has already had 10 fatality wrecks this year. As a result, Arlington Police Department has started to crack down on drunk driving.

“If you get pulled over and you have any sort of open container, you’re going to jail for at least seven days,” he said.

In Arlington, if drunken driving is suspected in a car accident and the driver refuses an alcohol test, the police can still, by law, take blood if the driver goes to the hospital for treatment. If the blood alcohol content is greater than .08, the license will be suspended for no less than 180 days.

If one allows the blood to be tested, the license will be suspended for 90 days. In the same circumstances, if the driver is under 21, and has any detectable amount of alcohol in the system, the license will be suspended and the driver will also go to jail.

“So if you’re 21 and you’re gonna be drinking, don’t get on the road,” he said. “We don’t wanna see it.”

Williams said that whenever he and friends used to go out to drink, they always had a designated driver. Those drivers always ate for free and got all the sodas they wanted for free, which would be a good suggestion for everyone.

“So would you rather be bumped and bruised from fighting your friend to take their keys or attend your best friend’s funeral?” Peoples asked the audience as he closed the presentation.

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