In recent years, there has been significant emphasis on warning people about the dangers of texting and driving and rightfully so. The number of accidents caused by texting is alarming. However, the primary culprit for accidents among young people is still underage drinking.
Surveys reveal that 40 percent of Alabama students in grades 9-12 have had one or more drinks within the past month. By age 18 more than 17 percent of teens have taken a drink of alcohol. In Alabama, 41 percent of young people ages 18-20, still illegal drinkers, say they have engaged in dangerous binge drinking. The measure for binge drinking is when they have at least five drinks on the same occasion. Among all college students, 61 percent are drinkers and 40 percent are binge drinkers. Again, most of these college students are under age 21 so they are illegal drinkers as well.
Binge drinking is especially dangerous. They are 14 times more likely to drive drunk than non-binge drinkers. The cost of underage and binge drinking is amazing. Nationwide about 5000 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related car crashes, homicides, suicides, and accidents. In one year, more than 180,000 people under age 21 will go to emergency rooms for alcohol-related injuries. Among older college students, ages 18-24, nearly 600,000 were injured while under the influence of alcohol. More than three million students drove while under the influence of alcohol in 2009.
These staggering statistics are the reason that Alabama Beverage Control Board administrator, Mac Gipson, is launching a new program targeting both underage and binge drinking. They are calling it, “Underage Under Arrest.”
Alabama is one of 17 states that are control states. In other words, the state is the wholesaler, retailer, and regulator of all alcoholic beverages in Alabama. The ABC board is responsible for enforcing all alcohol and drug laws in the state. Mac Gipson and associate administrator, William Thigpen, are former legislators and are doing an excellent job overseeing this very important agency. They are being joined in their effort by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP).
ALCAP is an interdenominational ministry that works with the churches of Alabama. They have been an integral part of making Alabama a more moral place to live. Indeed in their mission statement they strive to be “Alabama’s Moral Compass.” ALCAP has a long history of working with the Legislature to advocate moral issues. The organization was actually derived from the prohibition era of the 1920s and, at that time, was called the Alabama Temperance Alliance. Its goal was to keep Alabama free from alcohol consumption. Today they still diligently adhere to fighting alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and any other related addictive behavior in Alabama.
The Reverend Dan Ireland spent 40 years working the halls of the State House on behalf of ALCAP. He was beloved by everyone even though they might not always agree or vote with him. He must have felt like he was in the Lion’s Den while working with the Legislature over those four decades.
The Reverend Dan was an Alabama Baptist preacher for more than 60 years. Besides his heading ALCAP, he served as a pastor at churches in Birmingham, LaFayette, Hueytown, Huffman, Ft. Payne, and Huntsville. Dr. Dan retired a few years ago. Following in his footsteps has been the very able and diligent Dr. Joe Godfrey. He took over as executive director about six years ago. Godfrey pastored churches in Alabama for 27 years before ascending to the leadership of ALCAP. He is doing a yeoman’s effort to uphold moral issues the same way Dr. Dan did.
Hopefully, this underage binge drinking campaign will produce results and save lives in our state. Our good doctor Governor, Robert Bentley, is an ally for ALCAP. During his eight-year tenure in the Legislature he proved to be an advocate on all ALCAP’s issues. Dr. Bentley is a longtime deacon in his Tuscaloosa Baptist church.