Alcohol Awareness Week encourages knowledge of alcohol-related issues, social responsibility

The Rock was filled with opportunities to learn about personal safety when National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW) and Allstate Reality Rides came to it on Monday.

The University of Miami is one of more than 1,000 campuses to participate in NCAAW, where students will participate in different awareness events throughout the week, beginning with a day devoted to social responsibility, according to Pier 21 peer educator Charlotte Gerrity.

“We’re celebrating today by asking students to give us their take on social responsibility … as it relates to alcohol specifically,” Gerrity said. “That can mean bystander intervention or not drinking and driving, so it’s a lot of different things.”

Learning began at the Wheel of Misfortune, where students spun the wheel until it landed on a certain social responsibility-related category. From there, they answered questions touching on subjects like alcohol, drugs, consent and campus resources.

“I think people are very drawn to the wheel just because of its appeal and appearance,” said Pier 21 peer educator Nicole Chabloz. “I don’t think they really understand how educational it is until they’re actually answering a question.”

Gerrity said the wheel generated discussion on topical issues, such as changing marijuana laws.

“People have a lot of questions about drugs and alcohol, and this is a good place to get them answered,” Gerrity said. “Because we’re students, and we’re not going to judge them for asking those questions.”

Business management major Victoria Barros said she learned about monitoring the health of those who are drinking.

“At this program I learned actually that when you get alcohol poisoning, you don’t turn flushed like you do when you drink,” Barros said. “You actually turn more pale because you’re turning sick.”

The wheel revealed that some students were not informed about fundamental campus resources.

“I’m kind of surprised how many people don’t know where the counseling center is,” Gerrity said. “So we’re trying to tell people [that] today.”

After spinning the wheel, students moved on to receive giveaways and resources, including cups that show standard alcoholic drink sizes. They signed a banner pledging to be responsible, which will be displayed in the University Center, and wrote about what social responsibility means to them on a poster. Then students filled out surveys to provide feedback that will help Pier 21 monitor the campus climate, according to Chabloz.

The final stop was the incentive for participation and what Chabloz called the “biggest draw:” food from Chik-fil-A and T-shirts.

After completing rounds at the NCAAW event, students continued onto Allstate’s texting and driving simulator called Reality Rides, also at The Rock that day.

“The purpose of this program is to show people and create awareness about what happens when you’re texting and driving,” said Frank Torres, agency owner for Allstate. “So we provided some simulators out here to see exactly how long somebody can go before they get into a car accident or something happens.”

Participants sat behind the wheel of a real car with a virtual reality screen visible through the windshield to test their texting and driving skills.

“People get in and they don’t realize how difficult it actually is,” said Dan Waters, spokesperson for Allstate.

This is the third year of Reality Rides, as part of Allstate’s national “X the TXT” campaign to bring awareness to the dangers of distracted driving. Reality Rides is traveling across the country to 25 different cities this year. Among those different locations, Waters said college campuses tend to be favorable destinations to visit.

“Colleges are great because students are very eager to try it,” Waters said. “A lot of them are here because they want to see how good they are at it … and that’s good, because teen drivers are the most apt to text and drive and get into accidents texting and driving.”

In fact, Waters said that car crashes are the number one killer of teens, citing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“So we wanted to come to the college campus to alert people really how dangerous it is,” Waters said. “There is so much texting and driving in America, and it has been an especially dangerous year for Florida drivers.”

Hannah McGoldrick, a public health major, tried out the simulator. She said that texting and driving was more difficult than she anticipated.

“I definitely was not paying attention to the road, and I thought I could multitask,” McGoldrick said. “I ended up looking more down at the phone trying to correct the spelling than paying attention to what was in front of me, especially when I’m turning. And I was speeding and slowing up and not driving as consistently at the regular speed limit.”