Article By: J.K. Devine at University of North Georgia
Each spring semester, University of North Georgia (UNG) students can climb into a full-size vehicle to experience virtually driving while under the influence. Or they can don a pair of drunk goggles, hop onto a pedal cart and attempt to navigate a driving course.
Both activities area designed to illustrate the dangers of impaired driving. Both exercises occur one week before students leave for spring break. They are spearheaded by UNG’s Public Safety and Campus Recreation and Wellness departments.
Recently, Public Safety and Campus Rec and Wellness were recognized for these educational efforts.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) allocated UNG’s Campus Rec and Wellness a $17,420 grant from its Georgia Young Adult Program and awarded Public Safety first place in the Governor’s Challenge for campus and university police.
The Governor’s Challenge award recognizes agencies for the approach and effectiveness of their overall safety enforcement and education programs. It is the first time UNG has applied for the award and competed against the 25 other University System of Georgia institutions and other private colleges and universities.
“By winning this award, UNG proves that public safety departments don’t have to be heavy-handed in enforcement,” Dennis Dorsey, captain of investigative operations at UNG, said. “We have effective traffic safety through our educational engagement programs.”
For example, UNG police conducted a DUI simulation for students during a recent Criminal Justice Career Fair. The agency also organized a distracted driving and impairment session for resident assistants.
“We share impaired driving information before spring break, because we want it fresh in the minds of our students,” Dorsey said.
Public Safety collaborates on its messaging about distracted driving with Campus Rec and Wellness, which was awarded GOHS funds that focus on highway safety and alcohol choices. Specifically, its Georgia Young Adult Program concentrates on young adult driver crashes, injuries and fatalities.
“We target our program on alcohol education in combination with distracted driving,” Meri-Leigh Smith, associate director of wellness and health promotion for Campus Rec and Wellness, said.
“We target our program on alcohol education in combination with distracted driving.”
associate director of wellness and health promotion for Campus Rec and Wellness
Spreading those targeted messages are peer health educators, who are student volunteers trained to speak openly and honestly about sensitive and often personal topics. Issues focus on healthy choices that range from alcohol awareness to seat belt usage.
“We use our peer mentors because students easily connect with them and feel more comfortable talking to their peers,” Smith said.
Smith said the traffic safety message is important since four of UNG’s five campuses require a commute.
“A majority of our students are on the road more than our residential students,” she said. “And we care about our students whether they are on campus or off campus.”
Public Safety Interim Director Greg Williams said Public Safety shares this sentiment. He is proud both departments collaborate on the issue and have been recognized for their efforts.
“We share common responsibility for our students’ safety on and around campus,” he said. “Our awards speak well of our staff and students who are engaged in these traffic safety programs.”