Drinking alcohol the S.O.D.A.S way

 
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BY CARA BUCHANAN —

In a college town, life is lived for the weekends. Weeks are packed with marking off to-do lists and chugging back caffeine just to stay awake until night settles in and study breaks include trips to BTO Yogurt and Waffles or Gateway with friends before classes start again. It is the little things that make Northern Arizona University (NAU) nights memorable, but even in the best of situations it is important to be responsible, especially on the weekends and most importantly when consuming alcohol.

According to the Flagstaff Police Department, 767 driving under the influence (DUI) arrests and 98 DUI-related collisions were made in 2011. On campus, 265 alcohol violations are encountered by university police and 779 violations by university officials, the highest-ranking crime category. Gillian Andrews, Health and Promotions intern, did not take these numbers lightly, and in spring of 2012, she initiated the Students Only Driving Absolutely Sober, or S.O.D.A.S organization.

“A first of its kind, S.O.D.A.S teaches any student to be aware of the risks of drinking and driving, and encourages them to choose not to drink under the influence,” said Megan Roach, mental health and alcohol outreach specialist with Health Promotion. “I truly believe the program is a success.”

S.O.D.A.S was designed to reduce the behaviors of drunk driving, promote the use of sober designated drivers, increase students’ knowledge about the hazards of drinking and for students to have the opportunity to pledge not to drink under the influence or hop in a vehicle with someone who is impaired.

When a student signs up with S.O.D.A.S, they vow to keep their friends safe, and in exchange they receive a green bracelet to wear on nights they are the sober driver. At select bars and restaurants through Flagstaff, the students who are wearing the bracelets will receive only non-alcoholic beverages on the house.

“Our establishment values and supports safe driving and responsible drinking. While students are here they can enjoy their time with friends and get everyone home safely, which is something we support wholeheartedly,” said Chris Brickey, manager at Taverna Greek Grill, which supports the S.O.D.A.S group.

Thirteen local bars and restaurants in Flagstaff actively participate in the program’s community outreach. At 1899 Bar and Grill, students sporting the green bracelet can even indulge in a free appetizer.

“We do everything we can to get everyone home safe after a good night,” said Eddie Karner, manager at Collin’s Irish Pub. “It’s really nice that someone organized the downtown bars to get together for those offering up their night at others’ aid.”

Since its premiere, the S.O.D.A.S club’s mission has reached over 900 students, inviting them to play responsibly. According to a survey distributed by the NAU Police Department, 88 percent of students have chosen not to ride in a car with someone who had been drinking and another 75 percent usually or always use a designated driver.

Students can stop by the Health Promotions office any time to sign up for the program or catch the S.O.D.A.S team at promotional booths on March 2 at the men’s basketball game and in the Mountain View lobby March 7 and 14 at 7 p.m. 

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