Experts give tips on alcohol safety

Education is an important factor when considering the risks of alcohol.

Eliana Schreiber

Each year an average of 73 people die from alcohol poisoning in Minnesota — one of the highest numbers for any state in the country.
 
Because of the high death rate, officials say it’s important to educate inexperienced drinkers on how to stay safe while drinking. At a press conference on Monday held by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, three officials discussed the organization’s concerns.
 
It is important for people of all ages to be mindful of what they are drinking, Special Agent Terry Kelley from the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division said at the press conference.
 
Not all drinks are the same, he said, and many popular drinks have a much higher alcohol content by volume than the standard one-shot equivalent.
 
“We encourage people to educate themselves on the [Alcohol By Volume], monitor their friends when they’re drinking and encourage them to stop when they feel impaired,” Kelley said.
 
A recent study shows the problem is present in the University of Minnesota area.

He also said the education of local bars’ and restaurants’ employees is important to make sure the servers are trained properly and do not over-serve alcohol or serve minors.

 
Joe Berg, general manager at the Library Bar in Dinkytown, said the bar hasn’t had any alcohol-related violations since it opened in 2005.
 
Every year, the Library educates its staff by bringing in representatives from an alcohol-compliance consulting agency, Berg said. The bar also accommodates customers by calling a cab home for them, he said at the conference.
 
If underage drinkers comply with police, Minnesota’s medical amnesty law protects them from charges in an emergency, said University of Minnesota Police Chief Matt Clark — so students shouldn’t be afraid of calling 911.
 
Getting home safely is another key component, he said at the conference, which is why the UMPD encourages students to use campus escort services like 624-Walk and the Gopher Chauffeur.
 
Epidemiology and community health professor Traci Toomey said that although education is important in preventing alcohol-related issues, it is not the only aspect officials should focus on in regard to alcohol abuse. Law enforcement officials should also create environments that encourage students to drink responsibly, she said.
 
Toomey said police should be doing compliance checks, and local establishments should enforce consequences to servers for over-serving alcohol.
A University of Minnesota proffesor developed a new tool to help with alcohol intervention.
 
 “Education is just one piece of the puzzle,” Toomey said. “We need to have many pieces in place if we’re going to make a difference.”