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Twelve percent of Hillsdale College stu­dents asked say they have driven drunk.

In a survey recently con­ducted by The Col­legian, 55 of 480 Hillsdale College stu­dents admitted to driving while under the influence at least once. Addi­tionally, 111 stu­dents — 23 percent — admitted to riding in a vehicle operated by an ine­briated driver.

These numbers indicate that Hillsdale stu­dents are sig­nif­i­cantly less inclined towards drunk driving than the average college student.

In 2010, one in five college stu­dents admitted to driving while drunk while 40 percent acknowl­edged they had ridden with a drunk driver, the Uni­versity of Maryland School of Public Health found.

Dean of Men Aaron Petersen said that Hillsdale stu­dents seem less likely to abuse alcohol now, whether through drunk driving, drunk­enness, or underage drinking, than when he began his job.

Despite the apparent change in behavior, he said, “every semester it seems at least one student makes a sig­nif­icant mistake with alcohol.”

Assistant Dean of Men and Interim Security Director Jeffery Rogers said he hopes the survey will result in a student-led dia­logue on the impor­tance of respon­sible drinking.

“We’re hoping Hillsdale stu­dents will step in. We hope that stu­dents will rise to self-gov­er­nance,” he said. “They have a grave respon­si­bility. People need to say, ‘You’re not driving’ and take keys. When you pop open that Miller Lite, you get a lot of respon­si­bility.”

Though many cases of drunk driving go unno­ticed, some attract the attention of Hillsdale author­ities. At the beginning of this semester, a Hillsdale student received a police citation for oper­ating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent.

The student had con­sumed both wine and a mixed drink made with Ever­clear.

“At first, I didn’t think that I should drive back [from a fellow student’s res­i­dence],” the student said. “But I thought ‘It’s not that far of a drive.’ I figured it would be OK.”

While driving up Gal­loway Street, the student clipped a tree, drawing the attention of the college security team.

“They called the police after they saw the damage to the car,” the student said. “The police did a field sobriety test on me and they said my eyes were jumping around too much.”

Once at the police station, the student took a breathalyser test and was booked. The student is now awaiting a pre-trial hearing.

“You have to be careful because stuff like this can mess up your future fast,” the student said.

Driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more can lead to stiff penalties in Michigan, espe­cially if the driver is under 21.

First-time oper­ating while intox­i­cated offenders will face up to 93 days in jail, a $500 fine, com­munity service, six driver’s license points, and 180 days without a license.

But if a driver has a BAC of 0.17 percent or higher, the con­se­quences of the offense jump sig­nif­i­cantly. Under Michigan’s “super drunk” law, both fines and jail sen­tences nearly double.

Rogers said that the dean’s office works with author­ities on a case by case basis because the school and sur­rounding com­munity is so small.

“I worked with Michigan State, and there, you’re at the whim of the author­ities,” he said. “We don’t want to hurt stu­dents, and each case is dif­ferent.

At the same time Rogers and the rest of the college admin­is­tration want the stu­dents to be safe.

“When you mix alcohol with a vehicle,” he said, “you can get dev­as­tating effects.”

Typ­i­cally, the college puts first-time offenders on social or dis­ci­plinary pro­bation, which typ­i­cally will include a fine, com­munity service, alcohol edu­cation, coun­seling, and some amount of Alco­holics Anonymous meetings, Petersen said.

Rogers encouraged stu­dents to call security at (517) 607‑2535 or his per­sonal cell at (517) 398‑1522 for a ride rather than drinking and driving.

“Safety is our first concern,” he said. “It is my prayer that our stu­dents would take the respon­sible approach and take care of one another at all cost.”