Steer Clear uses flags to illustrate the dangers of drunk driving

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May 1, 2009

4:27 AM

Steer Clear, and approximately 70 student volunteers, placed 13,470 flags in the Sunken Garden April 28 to commemorate the number of lives lost each year to drunk driving accidents.

Steer Clear is a student-run organization that provides free transportation around campus and the Williamsburg area for College of William and Mary students on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“The purpose of this project is to provide a visual representation of the impact of drunk driving,” Steer Clear Assistant Director of Administration Katherine Eklund ’11 said. “Each flag represents one person who is killed in an alcohol-related car crash each year. That’s 13,470 flags. It is a pretty serious statistic. To think that one of those flags represents a person with family and friends who are also affected is pretty amazing.”

Eklund said the flags help students visualize and understand the dangers of drinking and driving.

“Drunk driving is a very pervasive issue, but one that does not always get a lot of attention in terms of awareness and prevention,” Eklund said. “We wanted to put up this display so that the William and Mary community, and anyone who may walk by or see pictures, has a little more of a perspective on the dangers of drunk driving.”

The display is also designed to advertise Steer Clear as a safe alternative to drinking and driving.

“The service we offer each weekend is very valuable and important, but we also want to remind people that they need to be safe, even when Steer Clear is not around,” Eklund said. “As a safe ride service, we think it’s our job to not only provide a service, but also raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and sexual assault.”

Eklund said the timing of the event is particularly relevant.

“The event has been in planning for a while now, and it took a lot of time to organize it, so we wanted to make it at the end of the year,” Eklund said.

“Also, with Blowout and summer coming up, we thought it would be a good time to remind the community of the dangers of drunk driving.”

Kim McMasters ’12 said the display of tens of thousands of flags had a profound effect on her, making her stop to think about the magnitude of the problem of driving under the influence of alcohol.

“It’s really scary,” McMasters said. “But I think at William and Mary drinking and driving is not a huge problem. It’s really good, you can walk pretty much everywhere — to the units, places nearby, off campus. You don’t see people driving that much.”

Even though she doesn’t believe drinking and driving is an extremely big problem at the College, Steer Clear public relations chair Laila Selim ’10 said it’s important for students to understand the consequences of drinking and driving wherever they may be.

“While William and Mary hasn’t had a death from drunk driving in a very long time, I think it’s safe to say that this issue is a reality in our college community,” Selim said. “Hopefully, projects such as this one, in conjunction with the existence of Steer Clear, will influence students’ decisions and judgment in such situations.”

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