Stay safer at this year's UNC Fall Festival

The days are getting cooler and soon there will be frost dusting the pumpkins awaiting harvest in the fields. Now is the time for all sorts of autumn celebrations, including Halloween parties, high school homecomings and the University of North Carolina's (UNC) Fall Fest.

While UNC differs from many universities by celebrating its homecoming in February, that doesn't dampen its Fall Fest celebrations. The last Saturday in October is always a time of harvest revelry — and that often includes drinking alcohol.

Underage drinking often occurs

Even though the legal drinking age remains 21 in North Carolina and the other 49 states, it would be disingenuous to pretend that no underage drinking takes place among the student body. It does — and that's a major problem.

The problem is exacerbated when these underage drinkers and others who imbibe alcoholic beverages then climb behind the wheel and drive.

Binge-drinking creates further woes

Researchers have identified patterns of drinking for college and university students. The results of one such study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine's National Institutes of Health indicates that university students display unique patterns of drinking.

These patterns revolve around certain events and peak times during which college students are more likely to engage in binge drinking. To combat this problem, university and public health officials can employ event-specific prevention (ESP) tactics to student drinking.

Which events trigger binge-drinking?

Students tend to drink more heavily during culturally significant events like Fall Fest, as there is a major uptick in student alcohol consumption around special events and holidays. Even students who typically do not drink alcoholic beverages report an increase in consumption around these type of events.

But there are also personally significant events that can trigger students and cause them to overindulge. Since many college students turn 21 during their time at university, 21st birthday celebrations — both their own and their friends' — are cited as times of increased drinking.

Students don't have to necessarily be celebrating to pop a few too many tops or be too heavy on the pour. A bombed test, a painful breakup or other negative event can cause students to attempt to drown their sorrows in liquor.

Drunk drivers can ruin lives

In addition to their own lives damaged by the repercussions of drunk-driving arrests and accidents, those who drink and drive contribute to the carnage on our roads. If you wind up injured by a drunken driver, you may need to seek justice in the North Carolina civil court system.

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