July 2013

Promoting Awareness and Wellness (PAWs)

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.

JULY 2013 STAYING SAFE BEHIND THE WHEEL


According to the "Stop the Texts Stop the Wrecks" campaign, a texting driver is 23 times more likely to
get into an accident.

Texting and Driving
In the last decade, the evolution of the cell phone has brought technology into the hands of millions of Americans. In the United States alone, 88% of people 18 and older have a cell phone (Zickuhr & Smith, 2012), and advances in technology have resulted in phones capable of text messaging, browsing the internet, gaming, and even getting directions. People have become accustomed to using their phone as part of nearly everything they do, and while these advances have resulted in enhanced communication and convenience, some have also resulted in unanticipated consequences.

One consequence of heavy cell phone use is the problem of texting while driving. A government report on distracted driving indicates that a person who is texting while driving is twenty three times more likely to be involved in an accident than a person who is not texting (Distraction, n.d.). In fact, a text sent or received while driving takes a driver’s eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that time equals the distance of a football field. Texting and driving has become such a problem that 39 states plus Washington, D.C., Guam, and the Virgin Islands have banned drivers from handheld phone use while behind the wheel (Cell Phone and Texting Laws, n.d).

Due to the drastic increase in phone-related accidents, a campaign by the National Highway Safety Administration and the Ad Council has helped raise awareness about the dangers of texting and driving. The Texting and Driving Prevention Campaign, called Stop the Texts Stop the Wrecks, uses public service advertisements to illustrate how dangerous texting behind the wheel can be. Through frightening statistics and attention-grabbing videos, audiences are alerted to the real risk associated with texting while driving.

Below is a video showing how devastating texting and driving can be.

In addition to highlighting the potential hazards of texting behind the wheel, the campaign also shares the following useful tips on how to prevent texting while driving (How Will You Stop, n.d):

  • Out of sight, out of mind – put your phone somewhere you can’t see or reach it
  • Silence is golden – turn off tempting notifications
  • Designate a texter – let a passenger do the communicating
  • Find an app – some apps limit cell functions while driving

For more tips and facts, visit StoptheTextsStoptheWrecks.org.

Drinking and Driving
While texting and driving is certainly a hazard to everyone on the road, it is not the only unsafe driving practice that affects people’s lives. It is a well established fact that driving while under the influence of alcohol has taken the lives of many individuals. While this fact might be considered common knowledge, the following facts from www.madd.org offer a startling glimpse at the extent to which drunk driving affects all of us:

  • On average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
  • In 2011, 9,878 people died in drunk driving crashes – one every 53 minutes
  • An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before their first arrest.
  • Adults drank too much and got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010 – that is almost 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving each day.
  • Drunk driving costs each adult in this country almost $500 per year.
  • If all 17 million people who admitted to driving drunk in 2010 had their own state, it would be the fifth largest in the U.S.
  • Drunk driving costs the United States $132 billion a year.
  • Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.
  • In the United States, the number of drunk driving deaths has been cut in half since MADD was founded in 1980.
  • 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.
  • Almost every 90 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash.

Safe Social Drinking
When done in moderation, consuming alcohol can be both safe and enjoyable. Research has demonstrated some of the health benefits of consuming certain types of alcohol in limited amounts, including improved cardiovascular health among those who drink red wine (The Bottom Line, n.d.). Ongoing research suggests that drinking in moderation is linked to the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain. As alcohol is digested, endorphins are released in the pleasure center of the brain, causing people to feel happy. However, once a person has consumed enough that their blood-alcohol concentration is about .08%, the feeling of pleasure sharply declines. This decline is because alcohol slows the central nervous system, making it a depressant. While alcohol can make consumers feel good initially, drinking more than a couple of beverages is attributed to a depressed mood (Endorphins, n.d.).

As a guideline for moderate drinking, remember that one drink is equivalent to:

  • 12 ounces (one can) of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor (vodka, gin, whiskey, etc.)

(BAC, n.d.)

Tips for Safe Social Drinking

  • Eat first. Drinking on an empty stomach can increase your level of intoxication.
  • Stay hydrated. In addition to slowing your consumption of alcohol, water will help prevent dehydration that results from alcohol consumption.
  • Designate a driver. Never drink and drive. Plan ahead to prevent a dangerous situation.
  • Don’t let strangers pour your drink. You should always know what you’re drinking.
  • Know your limit. Ask: when is enough enough?
  • Don’t mix alcohol with drugs and/or operating machinery. Doing so can have dangerous and unintended consequences.

For information on drinking myths, facts, and tips, visit Think Smart. Drink Safe. (Responsible Drinking, n.d.).

The Best Summer is a Safe Summer
No matter where you are, July is one of the most beautiful months to get out of the house and enjoy the company of friends and family; just remember, the best summer is always a safe summer. By ensuring you are a safe driver and enjoying alcohol responsibly, you can make sure your summer is as safe as possible. So put on your sandals, light the grill, kick back, and enjoy the weather! You’ve earned it!

Ashford University Faculty Spotlight - Stephen Brewer, PhD
Assistant Professor in the College of Health, Human Services, and Science

 

Dr. Stephen Brewer is an Assistant Professor in the College of Health, Human Services, and Science at Ashford University, where he teaches courses in psychology. He holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology as well as an MA in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in San Diego, CA and a BS in Psychology from University of California, San Diego. He has over seven years of clinical experience working with people who have addictions, mood disorders, and chronic minority stress. His research focuses on psychologist and counselor competence in working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, couples, and families. Among other training experiences, he completed a practicum at the Salvation Army Adult Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center in San Diego, was a Psychological Intern at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, and is currently finishing a post-doctoral internship as a psychological assistant at a private practice in San Diego, CA.

On drinking and driving, Dr. Brewer has the following guidance for Ashford students:

Imagine what life would be like if your conscience suddenly left you. Now, imagine doing something horrible and profoundly shameful while you were without a conscience. Finally, imagine that your conscience returns and you are able to reflect on your actions.

How would you feel?

Recent research into the neurobiology of addiction suggests that the frontal lobe of the brain – the part of the brain that psychologists believe contains our conscience – essentially turns off when we are intoxicated or deep in an addiction. Would you trust anyone without a conscience to make a healthy decision?

Before using any substance, you can increase your safety by following a few simple tips. If you choose to use drugs or alcohol, be sure to give your keys and wallet/purse to a trusted friend who will stay sober and ensure your safety. If you are taking care of others and promise to remain sober, keep a phone handy in case you need to call 911 if or when things get out of hand. Remember - If you use, use as safely as possible!

For more on Dr. Brewer, read his full bio.

References

Zickuhr, K. & Smith, A. (2012). Digital differences. Retrieved April 13, 2012 from http://www.pewinternet.org

Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 201 from

http://www.distraction.gov

Cell Phone and Texting Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3rd, 2012 from http://www.ghsa.org

How Will You Stop Texting and Driving. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2012 from http://www.StopTheTextsStopTheWrecks.org

The Bottom Line. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2012 from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu

Endorphins Play a Role in Alcohols Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2012 from http://www.webmd.com

Blood Alcohol Concentration Table. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2012 from http://www.macalster.edu

Responsible Drinking. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2012 from http://www.thinksmartdrinksafe.com