Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Little 500 and Binge Drinking: A Dangerous Combination

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and just in time for one of the greatest, most celebrated college weekends of the year: Indiana University's Little 500. This annual bicycle race has been known as the "world's greatest college weekend" since it was first founded in 1951. Every year, the week leading up to Little 500 comes to an abrupt halt for thousands of students at IU with many skipping class to attend the popular week long events that lead up to race day.

Binge drinking is a popular activity many IU students engage in during Little 500 week. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08% or higher. This pattern of drinking usually corresponds to 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on a single occasion for women, generally within a 2 hour time frame. Engaging in this type of drinking can lead to a number of problems including vehicle crashes, unintentional injuries, violence, rape, and acquiring an STI.

Prevention efforts are a great way to limit or curb some of the negative consequences associated with binge drinking. One prevention strategy in response to binge drinking by young people requires community action to reduce alcohol availability, such as increases in price and responsible beverage service practices, especially at parties. Other strategies include restrictions on marketing and promotion practices that glamorize heavy drinking, especially those directed at young people.

In 2008, a 21-day Internet-based daily diary study was done on 228 students to assess drinking and sexual behaviors during Little 500, as well as during the weeks before and after. It was reported that overall alcohol use was greater during the week leading up to the race than during the weeks before and after Little 500 week. Alcohol use in this study investigated the number of drinks consumed, alcohol consumption rate, the number of hours spent drinking, having a drink on more than one occasion, drinking to the point of becoming sick and blacking out.

In 2009, Indiana State Excise Police issued 157 tickets to 125 people between Thursday and Saturday of Little 500 weekend, and the IU Police Department issued 117 tickets for 69 people between Friday and Sunday. Most of the charges involved underage drinking, possession of alcohol or public intoxication. Each of these offenses carries a $423 fine. It is no surprise that the city of Bloomington made more money last year during Little 500 on drinking tickets than the University made on the actual race (ticket sales, food, donations, etc).

Think about the risks of binge drinking before engaging in it. Having a sober friend available to keep track of how much you've had to drink, to say "no more" and to inform you if you have had too much to drink is an effective strategy for avoiding risks such as drinking and driving. If you are of age and plan to drink, be responsible and designate a sober driver to drive that night. It just might save a life.

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By Brian Blevins, 4/1/2011