The Second Annual Chamberlain/Hopkins Symposium on Alcohol and Culture was held at Hiram College on Thursday, February 28 and Friday, February 29. The College community organized the Chamberlain/Hopkins Symposium on Alcohol and Culture in response to a March 2006 automobile accident that ended the lives of Hiram students Grace Chamberlain and Andy Hopkins and severely injured fellow classmate Evan DaSilva. A truck driven by a man who was under the influence of alcohol struck the students’ car. The impaired driver, James Cline, had 11 previous drunken driving convictions. In September 2006, Mr. Cline received the maximum sentence for his crime, 38 years in prison. His girlfriend, who knew he did not have a license but gave him her truck to drive anyway, was also sentenced to jail time.
On Thursday, Ohio Senator Timothy Grendell addressed the College regarding facts and figures about alcohol use, about drinking on college campuses, and about Senate Bill 17, developed in direct response to the drunk driving accident that killed Grace and Andy. Senate Bill 17 enacts stricter penalties regarding impaired operation. Specifically, it targets repeat offenders by enforcing compliance with federal penalties, addresses wrongful entrustment issues, closes the loophole for test refusal by lengthening administrative penalty, and puts together a register of repeat offenders. Already passed by the Senate, Senate Bill 17 is currently sitting in the House waiting for review and approval. If Senate Bill 17 isn’t passed by the House this year, the entire process will need to start from scratch.
To help ensure that this does not happen, Senator Grendell put forth a call to action. First, he urged, write to Speaker of the House Jon Husted and Criminal Justice Committee Chair John White and explain how important the Senate Bill 17 is, and how important it is that it becomes law.
Second, Senator Grendell, talked about binge drinking on college campuses. He challenged students in the audience to actively assume roles of public leadership, and be the voices of responsible and legal drinking for their peers. He encouraged students to take active steps to change the image and perception of excessive intoxication from fun and harmless to irresponsible and dangerous. Students must embrace accountability for the legal and ethical issues related to their own drinking – and that of their peers.
On Friday, the Save A Life Tour was on campus providing first-hand experience with driving under the influence – without actually endangering anyone – using the most realistic drunk driving simulator in the world. The National “Save A Life” Tour has been developed to provide a state-of-the-art, interactive driving experience that simulates driving under the influence of alcohol. Participants experience this while they are sober and are forced to face the influence that alcohol has on their driving skills.
Many students took advantage of the opportunity to try out the simulator, and many discovered how profoundly impaired their ability to control the vehicle became as the simulator increased their alcohol-impairment. For many, it was a sobering experience. And that is exactly the goal.