Teenage Fact Sheet

Program Gives Teens Facts About Drunken Driving, Drug Abuse

January 15, 1996

By David Shepardson / The Detroit News

Dr. Paul Taheri, medical director of the University of Michigan
Medical Centers’ trauma and burn unit, wants to stop drunken driving
accidents.

“We see more than 1,000 trauma victims per year, and 80 percent are
automobile-accident related,” Taheri said. “Of those, 50 percent — or at
least one a day — is because of a drunk driver.”

In an effort to scare teen-agers with a stiff dose of reality and
steer them away from alcohol abuse, the University of Michigan is
sponsoring a new program to keep adolescents off drugs and alcohol.

“These accidents are absolutely terrible and preventable,” Taheri
said.

Called Facing Alcohol Challenges Together, the program brings
primarily high-risk youths and parents together to see the possible
consequences of alcohol and drug abuse.

The medical center plans to serve about 250 young people per year.
Many will attend the program as part of a court-ordered alternative
sentencing program.

“Most of them will be referred to us by the court, especially for
drunk-driving convictions,” Taheri said. “If they don’t come and bring
their parents, they will have to carry out their sentence.”

Taheri said the program was important because young drunken drivers
show a high rate of reoccurrence.

“Between 50 (percent) to 80 percent of kids who drink and drive get
caught again,” he said.

More than 30 doctors, nurses and staffers at the hospital volunteer
two afternoons every other week for the program.

The six-hour program spread over two half-days combines role playing
and frank discussions about drugs and alcohol with a blunt look at the
effects of traumatic accidents on the body. The teens also see the costs
to the victim’s family.

In one role-playing scenario, the youths witness a real nurse telling
a mother of an accident victim that her child is dead. They hear a
chaplain giving last rites to a pretend victim. They watch as hospital
staff go over the bill with the parents.

“These are everyday, actual things that go on in the trauma unit,”
said Pam Pucci, a registered nurse at the trauma-burn unit and another
coordinator of the program.

Parents and young people who attended the first session said they
learned a lot.

“It was an unbelievable dose of reality,” said Karen Nutting of
Brighton, who went through the first run of the university-sponsored
program Wednesday night with her daughter, Rachel.

Rachel, 12, said she thought the program could help youths resist peer
pressure.

“There are kids in my neighborhood already caught in the drug web,”
she said. “They already have problems and they’re still in middle
school.”

The program is based on a similar program that began a little over a
year ago at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Taheri said. University
researchers will do follow-up interviews with the participants for
several years to determine the program’s effectiveness.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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