The surveys asked about their drinking habits -- where the students drank, if they had gotten drunk, and if they had engaged in binge drinking, which means having four or more consecutive drinks in a row for women, and five or more drinks for men, in the previous two weeks.
The students were also asked about drinking at six specific settings, including college events, such as football games, and parties at apartments, fraternity/sorority houses and bars.
Previous studies have shown that nearly half of U.S. students at four-year colleges binge drink regularly. Excessive drinking by undergrads causes more than 1,800 deaths each year, 590,000 unintentional injuries, close to 700,000 assaults and more than 97,000 sexual assaults, according to background information in the study.
The researchers found that students from Safer universities were 9 percent less likely to have consumed alcohol to intoxication at the last off-campus party they attended, and 15 percent less likely to have done so at bars/restaurants. It also appeared that less drinking occurred at fraternities and sororities. These reductions were considered the equivalent of 6,000 fewer incidents of drunkenness at off-campus parties, and 4,000 fewer at bars and restaurants during the fall semester at each school, compared with schools that didn't implement the measures.
"A big concern has been that adding controls over one location will just drive the students to drink in other riskier places, like public parks, but I was really gratified to see that this didn't happen," said Saltz.
One college administrator praised the findings. "This study is exciting to me," said Shirley Haberman, director of GatorWell Health Promotion Services at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. "Having a rigorous, research study on environmental strategies should prove very beneficial for administrators and practitioners on college campuses."
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