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The Alligator

Dry Danger: Accidents should be city priority, not consumption (Tuesday, January 25, 2005) Line spacer

Let's face it: College students drink.

They drank in the past, they drink now and they ever will drink into the future.

Despite what President Machen and other well-meaning officials may think, all of the posters and advertisements in the world aren't going to convince a single person not to drink, and increased punishments and tighter restrictions won't make students less likely to succumb to their dark, fermented mistress.

If anything, getting arrested gives students something to joke about with their friends the next time they get wasted.

Of course, the goal of reducing underage and binge drinking is a noble one, and its success would be a victory for the safety of everyone in Gainesville.

But a public relations campaign is not going to make it happen.

While attempts to do the right thing are appreciated, a line must be drawn when they are costing already-scarce UF funds.

For instance, it is ridiculous that UF officials ordered the band Rascal Flatts to remove all Coors Light advertising from their upcoming Stephen C. O'Connell Center performance. If the band were going to be tossing Silver Bullets into the crowd like T-shirts at a baseball game, it would be understandable that administrators would be upset. But a furor over some propaganda on ticket stubs and fliers is just silly.

Worse, the band agreed to remove the Coors materials only if UF waived the $12,500 O'Connell Center nightly rental fee.

That's $12,500 less the university has to add additional sections of overcrowded classes, pay teacher salaries and, just maybe, not switch to block tuition.

Though this move likely was meant to save face in light of UF's recent commitment to remove the town's drinking problems, it's hard to see it being worth losing that kind of money.

But while drinking is difficult to stop through word of mouth, much can be done to prevent alcohol-related accidents. Any funds allocated to a futile attempt to tell students not to drink would be better spent on making Gainesville a safer place for partiers.

Local towing companies such as Watson's Towing, Freedom Carrier Service and Superior Towing LLC already are offering discounted rates to impaired students. If funds were used to subsidize these companies, students would be much more likely to take advantage of the service.

Towing is an expensive option now, but rates as low as $15 or $20 per tow - which should be feasible if everyone cooperates - would look pretty attractive compared to the possibility of an accident or DUI.

Cab companies also could be convinced to get in on the deal, giving an option to students and residents who do not live near Later Gator stops.

Of course, Later Gator doesn't help anyone on nights it doesn't run. The service at least should add operating times on Wednesday, which is a big night for many bars in town.

And though it's been stated countless times, an extension of bar closing times by an hour or more, with last call staying at its current time, would give bar-goers a much needed sobering-up period and stop everyone from flooding the streets at 2 a.m.

Someday, the bureaucracy will learn the truth: They may take our wine, but they'll never take our free beer night.

Reprinted with permission from the Independent Florida Alligator

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