Students: Enjoy the holiday break, return to Penn State safely

December 15, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- As the jubilation at the end of the semester and the start of a long break from studies set in, the last thing on students’ minds may be coming back to Penn State in January. But before students begin any holiday celebrations, coming back next semester should be on their minds. Deciding to be safe over the break, to be able to return in January, relaxed and ready for a new beginning, is essential.

“It seems the holiday break is a time when DUI fatalities increase in the college population,” said Linda LaSalle, associate director for educational services for Penn State's University Health Services. “Students have access to the family car and are at home driving more frequently to meet friends at bars or holiday parties. At school they can usually walk everywhere.”

States across the nation are gearing up to crack down on holiday drunken driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said states that aggressively enforce efforts to crack down on drunken driving have seen their DUI fatality rates drop. This means every state is increasing their efforts to catch drunk drivers between now and the first of the year.

Alcohol consumption impairs the decisions people make, makes them more vulnerable, more likely to be sexually active and less reflective on future consequences, LaSalle said. Those who engage in dangerous drinking behaviors don’t always consider the impact their celebrations may have on family and friends. A DUI or underage drinking violation is a holiday gift parents do not want from their son or daughter; an alcohol-related fatality would devastate any family.

For those of legal age, being smart about drinking doesn’t mean partygoers cannot drink at all.

“Before going out, students should decide how much they’re going to drink and stick to that limit,” LaSalle said. “The recommendation is no more than one drink per hour, regardless of age or sex.”

LaSalle said there are a number of reasons for this limit. The first is health -- the human liver can only process the amount of alcohol in one drink each hour. If a person puts more than that into their body, they’re asking their liver to perform a function it isn’t designed to do. It can’t eliminate the toxins any quicker than that. Also, having one drink per hour will also ensure that the person's blood alcohol content is in a range that minimizes negative physiological effects.

LaSalle explained that alcohol has a two-phase response. The first phase is the point where the blood alcohol level (BAC) is no greater than .055. Anyone that exceeds this level will experience the second-phase response, which includes negative physiological effects caused by alcohol, such as blurred vision and impaired coordination, judgment and reaction time.

Just because finals are over and students are on a break doesn’t mean they should stop using their brains altogether. During the holiday break it's just as important as ever to make smart decisions.

Click here for more information about Penn State's commitment to alcohol-awareness initiatives.

Last Updated December 17, 2009