NSU receives state grant for awareness program

CHRISTINA ARRECHAVALA
Managing Editor

Northwestern State University was recently awarded a Louisiana Highway Safety Commission grant for $29,000. The money is distributed across the state to fund educational programs focused on improving driving habits.

According to its website, the LHSC’s core mission is “Changing Behaviors and Saving Lives.” They partner with Louisiana companies to spread awareness about hazardous driving practices, such as distracted driving.

The grant is a renewal of funding NSU has received from the LHSC in past years. Maggie Welch, a certified counselor who works with Counseling and Career Services, has seen the impact traffic education can have on students.

“There does seem to be a growing awareness across campus regarding the individual responsibilities we all share,” she said. “Our choices affect our personal safety as well as the safety of others.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says seat belts saved an estimated 13,941 lives in 2015. But still, 48 percent of those killed that year were unrestrained.

Every day in the U.S., nearly 29 people die from drunk driving crashes. That equates to 10,497 deaths in 2016 – of which 1,233 were children age 14 or under.

Distracted driving – consisting of anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road – killed almost 3,500 people and injured another 390,000 in 2015. Spending five seconds sending a text or messing with the radio equates to nearly a football field of road missed by a driver.

These statistics led President Dr. Chris Maggio to reapply for the LHSC, with hopes that the money would go toward continued funding for awareness campaigns on NSU’s campus.

Maggie Welch also serves as the faculty advisor for Students with a Target, a student group that “implements peer leadership in order to provide traffic safety education, specific to impaired driving.”

SWAT focuses on “alcohol awareness, sexual awareness, and drug awareness,” according to OrgSync. The organization hosts various campaigns for students throughout the year and uses the grant to coordinate and implement its programs.

The programs mainly center around school breaks that are well known to be riddled with underage and obsessive drinking. Some campaigns include the following:

– National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week

– Safe Mardi Gras

– Play it Safe for Spring Break

– Homecoming Week

NSU also specifically focuses traffic safety education on first-year students. Every student is required to complete a pre- and post-test based on program activities to gauge the knowledge gained and the program’s effectiveness.

“This rising awareness among college students is evident within the results of the yearly-administered Drug and Alcohol Core Survey,” Welch said.

For more information on the effects of distracted and impaired driving, visit lahighwaysafety.org

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