TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, released the following statement regarding today’s Panel hearing on underage drinking:
“For many students, college is a time of self-discovery. Many of them have never been away from home for extended periods of time. Many have never known such a high level of personal responsibility, without the immediate support of parents and family members to back them up. These students will make mistakes. They’ll oversleep for an early class, they’ll forget to do an important assignment, or they’ll eat too much junk food and not enough vegetables from the campus cafeteria.
“These mistakes are all part of campus life, and play an important part of the personal growth that we all go through when we’re out on our own for the first time. However, while we need to give our college students the freedom to make and learn from the innocent mistakes associated with growing up, we cannot allow them to make life-changing and potentially lethal mistakes while under the influence of alcohol.
“Underage and binge drinking on college campuses has become all too prevalent, not only in New Jersey, but around the country. The statistics are startling. In fact, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,700 college students die every year from unintentional injuries related to alcohol use. A majority of these deaths occur in motor vehicle accidents. Nearly one in three college students qualify for a medical diagnosis of alcohol abuse at one point in their college years. Also, three in five college students can be considered frequent binge drinkers.
“In recent years, we’ve seen our fair share of local tragedy associated with underage drinking at New Jersey’s institutions of higher education. We need to take immediate action, before one more promising young life is cut short due to the lapse in judgment associated with alcohol use.
“We need to look at the current alcohol policies on the books at colleges within New Jersey, and share our best practices between institutions to discourage alcohol abuse, particularly by those under the legal drinking age.
“We need to develop real solutions to the real problems of underage and binge drinking on New Jersey’s college campuses.”