When Robert Anastas founded SADD in Wayland. Mass., more than 30 years ago, the acronym stood for Students Against Drinking and Driving.
While SADD is still associated in people's minds with the perennial problem of underage drinking, the organization has increased its focus beyond drinking. In 1997, the organization became Students Against Destructive Decisions to reflect the broader scope of concerns that includes underage drinking and other drug use, risky and impaired driving and other types of destructive decisions.
The Cumberland High School SADD chapter recently utilized a $2,000 grant from Allstate and Ford Driving Skills as part of Operation Teen Safe Driving. Adviser Janet Blade said the CHS group had to show grantors they were serious about making the roads safer for all through educating teens.
"We had to prove there's a program within our district that's helped people," Blade said.
One of the group's activities was a seat belt compliance survey, where club members charted the percentage of drivers wearing their seat belts as they entered the CHS campus. Blade said the 75 percent compliance before Thanksgiving was well below the state average of more than 90 percent.
But Blade said the group will run another check at the end of February to see if there's any improvement. She added it's unrealistic to think SADD will have universal impact, but she said the group has increased awareness of a number of key issues.
"We may not reach everybody, but we are reaching enough to make a difference," Blade said.
"If we can educate people about the consequences of making wrong decisions, we can help them make the right decisions," added CHS student Emily Hudson.
Senior Myrna Morris said bullying has become an increasingly serious issue in schools. SADD, she said, gives students the tools to raise awareness of bullying.
"There are some people who just don't care," Morris said. "They do it because they can.
"But the more you are told how badly you are treating the person, the more likely you will stop."
Morris said many people don't realize the impact bullies can have on their victims.
"The thing a lot of people don't understand is that bullying can kill," she said. "It's kind of like drunk driving if it's pushed far enough.
"The person might start thinking what people are saying about them is true and want to hurt themselves."
Senior Jaylynn Maxey said the group also focuses on dangerous driving behaviors, such as texting.
"We had 86 people sign a pledge to not text and drive," she said.
The SADD chapter at CHS was revived three years ago after being inactive for several years. It's one of more than 10,000 chapters with more than 350,000 active participants worldwide.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at email@example.com.
For more on what's happening in Greenup and Toledo, see A Closer Look section in Friday's print edition of the Daily News.