Shattered Dreams is a two-day, school based program that promotes responsible decision making among high school students regarding underage drinking and impaired driving by illustrating how irresponsible choices can end all dreams. It is a comprehensive prevention program that involves school administration and faculty, students, parents, community members, law enforcement, emergency medical services and area health care workers in the planning and implementation of the activities. Planning for this event has been underway for six months and will be implemented on Monday, May 4th and Tuesday, May 5th.
Underage drinking is a significant risk factor for teens in Texas. In a recent survey, more than half of teens reported drinking in the past thirty days. 31% of teens reported binge drinking (having five or more drinks on one occasion). Most high school students (71%) report that alcohol is easy to obtain with most getting it from friends and at parties.
Research has shown that alcohol affects youth differently than adults. Because the adolescent brain is still developing, it is much more vulnerable to the long term effects of alcohol. Teen drinkers may suffer damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning and memory, and the pre-frontal cortex, which controls executive functions like decision-making and attention. Damage to these and to other structures can result in decreased brain function and size. In fact, the brains of teen drinkers have been found to be roughly 10% smaller than non-drinking teens.
Texas leads the nation in alcohol-related crash deaths among 15-20 year olds. In 2000, almost half of the fatal car crashes among 15-20 year olds were alcohol related. About 16% of high school students reported driving after drinking, and 40% reported riding with a drinking driver in the past month. Males were more likely than females to have driven after drinking.
The decision to drive after drinking or ride with someone who has been drinking seems to be related to teens’ perception of their ability to control the situation, how likely they think it is they will be caught, and how common the behavior is among their peers. When teens think the chances of being caught are low (either by their parents or the police) they are more likely to drink and to drive after they drink. Research has shown that communication between teens and parents about drinking and drinking and driving is poor. Most teens surveyed said they would choose drinking and driving rather than appear irresponsible in front of their parents. While many do not experience peer pressure to drive after drinking, most feel reluctant about confronting a peer about drunk driving.
For Shattered Dreams, the primary focus is on changing the attitudes and behaviors of individuals regarding underage drinking and impaired driving. On Tuesday, May 5th, students representing those who die in alcohol-related crashes will leave their classrooms and return as members of the Living Dead. Other students, along with first responders from the community, will participate in a staged automobile crash, which will begin at 1:10 on the road between the ag shop and the band practice field. Community members may hear a 911 call and the resulting sirens as the first responders arrive at the school. The crash scene is followed by a mock memorial in the high school auditorium. Speakers from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, DPS and TABC will speak to students and parents about issues involved in underage drinking. Parents are invited to attend the afternoon events, beginning with the crash scene. Attendees should park in the student parking lot or the visitor lot in the front of the school.