Planning ahead can keep students safe

When partying, UNA police chief Bob Pastula says having a designated person at a party to chaperone is just as important as having a designated driver.

It’s Friday night. School has started, and summer is over. The bar is packed full of new faces, old friends, loud music and cold drinks. After the last call, several students less-than-casually stumble out the door. All of them split different ways: some find a sober ride, some walk home, and others get in their cars and drive away.

While drinking and college are often associated with each other, authorities say that there are responsible and safe ways for students to still party like rock stars.

Sgt. Hal Howard of the Florence Police Department (FLPD) knows that students want to have a good time. After serving 14 years on the FLPD force—12 of those years on the local SWAT team—he has also seen many things go wrong.

“First thing, if you’re going to go out and have a good time clubbing, don’t drink and drive,” Howard said. “If you’ve got to call a cab, call a cab. Spend the money. The last thing a student needs is a DUI.”

He said it comes down to “policing yourself.” Being aware of self and the surroundings can cut down on a lot of troubles, and the troubles don’t start outside of the bar, Howard said.

“Keep your head on a swivel—even in the club,” he said. “Don’t feel like you are safe because you’re around a lot of people. Guard your drink like it’s your new iPhone.

“Bad guys are kind of like animals. (Animals) don’t attack a stronger prey. It’s the same way with the bad guys. They’re not going to attack a group. When you’re with a group, you’re safer,” Howard said.

By being self-aware, Howard said students who are drinking can stop things such as getting arrested, having an automobile accident, theft or date rape.

UNA Chief Pastula agrees that the group mentality is a better, safer way to drink. And while many people appoint a designated driver (DD) for the night, it’s a little more than that.

“Everybody thinks you need a DD,” Pastula said. “Yes, but you need to have a designated somebody to keep an eye on things. If everybody’s impaired to where they can’t see straight, somebody can take advantage of them.”

Caitlin Scully, professional writing major at UNA, recently celebrated her birthday. During her night out, not only did she stay in a group, but also had her boyfriend Kyle McAnally as a DD. Having an agreement worked out with friends or significant others is a good way to have a safe night, Scully said.

“It depends on friends you go out with,” Scully said. “Some like to be the point person. Others say ‘Thank you for watching me. I’m watching you tonight.’ If (Kyle) wants to go out and have fun, he knows his limit. He’s a big boy. But he knows I’m here to drive him and vice versa.”

For students who don’t have a ride, walking may not be the best option, Howard said. People who are out on the streets after drinking can easily be charged with public intoxication.

Every officer has a certain amount of discretion in any situation, Howard said. And each situation is unique.

“Police officers are just people and all people are different. My advice to students is, if you’re going to take that chance—and it is a chance—expect to get that officer who is not going to give you any leniency,” Howard said. “That will make people call a cab. Always expect the one who is not going to cut you a break.”

Pastula said the UNA Police are willing to help students find their way. If students approach a UNA police officer and ask for help, they will call the student a cab, Pastula said. He also said students should make use of the downtown bus that runs all over downtown and Seven Points, Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

“We do everything we can not to take someone to jail,” Pastula said. “If they go to jail, they really deserved it. The Florence Police Department is not as forgiving. As long as (the student) doesn’t get belligerent or nasty, we will make sure they get home safe.”