Take positive action to stay safe

Bill Spitzer

Austin Postitive Action Coalition

We are officially in the holiday season.

This season comes with joy and excitement for some and the exact opposite for others. Over the next couple of weeks, I will cover a couple important topics that may help you continue to experience the delight of the season or find ways to move toward the positive.

Did you know 411 people were killed in vehicle crashes in 2015?  Two of those were our friends and neighbors right here in Mower County. This is according to the most recent 2015 Crash Facts guide put out by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.  Crashes begin to spike in November and December and we know that may have something to do with that white fluffy stuff which I refuse to mention in fear we might be buried in it soon.

However, not all these crashes are caused by weather conditions. In fact, 33 percent of crashes in our state were determined to be alcohol-related. It is very sad to hear those facts, but we can do our part to steer them in another direction. 

I think it all starts with education. We all have been told from the moment we start driving that alcohol and other drugs do not mix well when we are operating a motor vehicle.  We have seen the billboards, heard the messages on TV, radio and saw the ads in the newspaper but the statistics are still there. Why? The answer is complicated. A lot has to do with our perception of what harm there is in the behavior and the risk of being stopped by law enforcement for drinking and driving. Lastly, we worry about the effect these substances have on our brains. An interesting statistic based on perception surfaced from our recent Positive Community Norms (PCN) survey given to all 7-12 grade students last spring. When students were asked how many times they thought adults in the Austin community drove a vehicle after consuming alcohol, nearly 15 percent of the students surveyed thought adults did it six times or more in the last year. 

Most of us know these substances alter our thinking and our judgement which, in turn, results in our making poor decisions.  Many alternatives have been explored and many work; like the sober cab or having a sober driver. Another reason why some choose to take part in this behavior is because we think everyone else is doing it. Could our student’s perception be right or is it that we are making our perception a reality?

You can do your part this holiday season in many ways. First and foremost, it begins with you. What example are you setting for the young people in our community? I will tell you, they are watching.  We all want to have a good time but have a plan.

Next, be a friend. Give them a ride home or call a cab. Lastly, talk with your kids. Sometimes parents struggle having these conversations. Our coalition wants to help with some tips for starting these conversations. Make sure you check your mailbox near the holidays as our coalition will be starting a “Simply TALK” campaign to help spark conversations with your teens about alcohol.

Bill Spitzer is the Planning and Implementation (P & I) Coordinator working closely with APAC (Austin Positive Action Coalition).  APAC and Bill will be working with our schools and community as part of a 5-year grant focusing on Positive Community Norms.  Feel free to contact him at the Austin High School 507.460.1800 ext. 0361 or via e-mail bill.spitzer@austin.k12.mn.us.  This grant is made possible by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, ADAD and hosted locally by the PRC.  To learn more about the Parenting Resource, visit their website at www.familiesandcommunities.org

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