Thursday, August 25, 2016

This Labor Day, Remember: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over: Law Enforcement Shows Zero Tolerance in Its Goal to End Drunk Driving

This Labor Day weekend, families and friends will be celebrating the end of the summer. Sadly, this festive time has also become a dangerous time for America’s roads, as many drunk drivers get behind the wheel after celebrating. For this reason, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working with Law Enforcement to stop drunk drivers and help save lives. The high-visibility national enforcement campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, runs August 19-September 5, 2016. During this period, law enforcement will show zero tolerance for drunk driving. Increased state and national messaging about the dangers of driving drunk, coupled with sobriety checkpoints and increased officers on the road, aim to drastically reduce drunk driving on our nation’s roads.

According to NHSTA, on average, over 10,000 people died each year (2010 to 2014) in drunk-driving crashes. During the 2014 Labor Day holiday weekend (6 p.m. August 29 – 5:59 a.m. September 2), 40 percent of the fatalities in traffic crashes involved drunk drivers, which was the highest percentage over the five years 2010 to 2014. And nighttime proves to be the most dangerous time to be out on the roads: During the 2014 Labor Day holiday period, 83 percent of drunk-driving crash fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. – as compared to half of all drunk-driving crash fatalities throughout the rest of that year.

Additionally, 40 percent of crash fatalities on Labor Day weekend in 2014 involved drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 or higher), amounting to 162 lives lost. And we’re not just talking about a little bit of alcohol, either. More than a quarter (28%) of the crash fatalities that occurred on Labor Day weekend involved drivers with BACs of .15 or higher—almost twice the illegal limit.

The reality is that people aren’t invincible. Of the 9,967 people who were killed in impaired-driving crashes in 2014, 64 percent were the drunk drivers themselves. Those 6,391 drunk drivers thought they would make it to their destinations, but they didn’t.

There are people who like to pretend that certain laws don’t apply to them, but just to be clear: in every state, for every person, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. During the enforcement period, there will be a special emphasis on drunk-driving enforcement. Drivers should expect to see more patrol vehicles and increased messaging about the dangers of drunk driving. This is an unacceptable problem. Drunk driving is selfish and dangerous. We want to increase awareness with this campaign, but also see lasting results of decreased drunk driving. 

This is important to remember: do not trust yourself when you drink. You may think you aren’t drunk, but law enforcement will know you are. Law enforcement officers’ skills in detecting and identifying drunk drivers have never been better. They will spot you and arrest you.  Please plan ahead before you go out. Designate a sober driver. Whatever you do, do not drink and drive. NHTSA has made it even easier to get home safely when you’ve been drinking, with the free SaferRide mobile app, available through iTunes and Google Play. The app allows you to call pre-selected contacts and also identifies your location so you can be picked up.

This August and every day remember: there is never an excuse to drink and drive. If you choose to break the law, Law Enforcement will see you before you see them. Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back to School Activities: It’s 3 pm on a School Day - Do you know where your children are?

As summer vacations end and students start a new school year, here are a few reasons you should encourage them to get involved with after-school activities:
·         Children & teens are more likely to be the victims of crime during the after-school hours than at any other time
·         Children & teens are more likely to participate in violent crimes during the after-school hours than at any other time
·         Children & teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol or drug use or sexual activity during the after-school hours than at any other time.  (Courtesy National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center) 
Our young children often attend after school daycare or programs provided by their elementary schools, but by the time children reach middle school they are often left on their own after school.  It seems sensible enough. They are old enough to get their own snacks and open their books to complete their homework. They know who to call if they have an emergency. However, adolescents benefit from after-school activities and supervision, too.

Youth who spend only a couple of hours per week in extracurricular after-school activities are significantly less likely to drop out of school; become teen parents; or use tobacco, alcohol or drugs. Spending 5-19 hours per week in after-school activities reduced the risk even further.

It is important that these activities are not just time wasters, but are programs that help youth develop skills and values and provide them with experiences that mean something to them.

It doesn't take a lot. Our schools and community offer a variety of after-school clubs, sports, and activities. Encourage your children to find something that interests them and participate regularly.

For information on keeping your kids active and activities available in Van Buren County you can contact the SAFE Coalition by email at or by phone at 319-293-6412.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Van Buren County Iowa Partnership for Success – Strategy Details

The Van Buren County SAFE Coalition was awarded the Iowa Partnership for Success (IPFS) Grant in 2015 to address underage drinking and underage binge drinking in Van Buren County.  The Van Buren County SAFE Coalition’s IPFS project is funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  In June of 2016, the following strategies were approved by the Iowa Department of Public Health to address underage drinking and underage binge drinking in Van Buren County.

1) Alcohol restrictions at community events held at privately owned facilities: The coalition will be working with privately owned facilities to help them implement the Best Practices for Alcohol Service at their location.  The coalition will also be exploring the idea of implementing a policy with the city councils and the county board of supervisors that would require all special event licensees to comply with the Best Practices for Alcohol Service at their events.   

2) A local social host ordinance: This ordinance would address the provision of a location for alcohol consumption by youth 20 years old and younger on private property.  It would include civil penalties with fines.  The ordinance would also address the needs of a rural community like Van Buren County where at times parties are held without the knowledge of land owners. 

3) Alcohol restrictions in public places: The coalition will explore and recommend policies to be put in place by each city council and the Van Buren County Board of Supervisors.  The policies would address the availability of alcohol in public places, such as public parks and community ball fields. 

4) Individual strategy programming for youth provided at the local middle school: The coalition is working with the Van Buren Community School District to implement the Life Skills Training Program in the 7th and 8th Grades.  The coalition will be able to train a teacher who will then implement this curriculum.  The coalition will also pay for the curriculum to be purchased for implementation in the fall of 2016 with the 7th-grade students and in the fall of 2017 with 7th and 8th-grade students.  The Life Skills Curriculum builds on the information provided each year, and that is why it will take two years to implement it in both the 7th and 8th grade classes. 

5) IDPH Media Campaign: The coalition will be working with local media outlets to implement the Iowa Department of Public Health’s “What Do You Throw Away” underage drinking prevention media campaign. 

The five strategies above were chosen based on data collected during the assessment phase of the project completed in 2015.  The assessment phase included data collection, focus groups, a Tri-Ethnic Readiness Survey and one on one interviews.  The information collected showed that access to alcohol at community events in public places and privately owned facilities, access to alcohol at parties held in people’s homes, and youth not understanding the dangers of underage binge drinking should all be addressed through the five selected strategies.

For more information about the IPFS Project or the work of the SAFE Coalition please contact the coalition at 319-293-6412 or at  You can also check out the coalition website at or the coalition’s Facebook page at Van Buren County SAFE Coalition.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Van Buren County Joins Media Campaign Launch

Underage Alcohol Use and Underage Binge Drinking Targeted

A media campaign targeting underage alcohol use and underage binge drinking in Van Buren County is being launched this year. The campaign, which includes radio ads, posters, billboards and social media, focuses on middle school youth ages 13-16, the age group at which alcohol experimentation most often begins.

Van Buren County is one of 12 counties chosen for the campaign, which is through the Iowa Partnerships for Success Grant funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and is administered by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH).

“We want to make kids stop and think about their drinking decision,” said Kris Rankin, Van Buren County IPFS Coordinator.  “By educating them about what they stand to lose by making the decision to use alcohol, it empowers them to take control of their life.” The ads feature bottle caps and cans imprinted with words including ‘respect,’ ‘your dreams,’ ‘friendships,’ and ‘your future’ – emphasizing that underage drinking comes at a cost.

For more information about the Van Buren County SAFE Coalition’s efforts to prevent and reduce underage drinking and binge drinking, visit  For information on the Iowa Partnerships for Success Grant, visit