December 18, 2014
Featured in: The Post Star
Story by: Meg Hagerty
Three Saratoga County community-based coalitions for substance abuse are using social media to drive home the message of the dangers of making poor choices behind the wheel.
During the month of December, the Saratoga Partnership for Prevention, South Glens Falls Community Coalition for Family Wellness and Shenendehowa Community Coalition are tweeting on Twitter and posting on Facebook and Instagram facts and images to better educate the public about drunken and drugged driving during National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.
Their goal is to reduce the number of people killed nationwide killed every year in alcohol- and drug-related crashes. That number now stands at 12,000.
Lee Ann Mondrillo, media and marketing coordinator for the Prevention Council of Saratoga County, said using social media will have a sizable impact.
“The Prevention Council (of Saratoga County) alone has almost 400 following the Facebook page and when they see (the messages) and they share it with their groups and their whole subset is seeing that — it’s the same thing with Twitter — it just allows us to have a very large response,” Mondrillo said.
As much as people are used to warnings and news about drunken driving, increasingly issues are arising with drugged driving that involve both prescription and illegal street substances.
The Prevention Council quoted statistics, that 20 percent of crashes each year in the U.S. are caused by drugged driving, and the problem is especially bad among teens and young adults. That accounts for 6,761 deaths and 440,000 injuries.
“It’s becoming very pervasive, this drugged driving. People are taking any type of medication, anti-anxiety or whatever the case may be, and getting behind the wheel. Their faculties are not the same. It is a growing problem,” Mondrillo said.
Along with the social media campaign, Lights on Day for Life is scheduled for Friday, when businesses and the public are encouraged to leave their headlights and porch lights on to honor anyone who has been lost or severely affected by an accident caused by drunken or drugged driving.
Friday is the kickoff for National Holiday Lifesaver Weekend. The local police will step up sobriety checkpoints and put up digital signs along Lake Avenue in Saratoga Springs. Announcements will be made on TV and radio to reinforce the message, Mondrillo said.
“It lends itself the opportunity that you almost can’t make that bad decision. There will be people who do, but I do think people will be more cognizant and make sure they have a designated driver or call a taxi and most definitely, they’ll be very aware now that drugged driving is a serious issue,” she said.
Mondrillo said the Prevention Council and its community-based coalitions will continue to put out regular messages long after this campaign, although they will not focus specifically on drunken and drugged driving.
She is optimistic the program will raise awareness and reduce injuries and deaths.
“I think because we are reaching people in places they are already, like Facebook and Twitter, it’s easier for them to become champions or advocates of the message, as well,” Mondrillo said.
To receive and share prevention messages from the three Saratoga County coalitions, follow them on Facebook and Twitter: Saratoga Partnership for Prevention – @TogaTrue; South Glens Falls Community Coalition for Family Wellness – @CCFWsgf; Shenedehowa Community Coalition – @ShenStrengthNum