A new Facebook app, developed in conjunction with a Texas Department of Transportation anti-DUI/DWI campaign, will hopefully help reduce the horrible toll of drunk driving among college students and young adults.
The app, titled “Person Appointed to Stay Sober,” or “PASS,” takes its name from the TxDOT public service campaign, which urges revelers to “Get a Weekend PASS,” especially around big holidays known for heavy imbibing. The PASS app, which works with Facebook’s event planning feature, allows a group of friends to designate a sober driver; individuals can also ask others for a ride, spontaneously volunteer themselves as sober drivers (perhaps after peeling their friends off the floor of the frat house) and even request donations for gas money. And the app helps address security concerns -- at least to some degree -- by enabling users to arrange rides from their friends, rather than strangers.
Social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to alcohol abuse, however. Earlier this month I wrote about a new public health study, proposed by the National Institutes of Health, to investigate how social media encourages binge drinking.
The NIH request for proposals noted that social media may shape perceptions of acceptable levels of alcohol consumption and prompt alcohol abuse, as “the portrayal of oneself as a drinker, especially as one able to consume significant amounts of alcohol, is considered by many young people to be a socially desirable component of one’s identity.”
But the NIH also sees a preventive role for social media, including mobile apps that can help curb underage drinking through virtual interventions or simple reminders.