Don't get behind a steering wheel if you're drinkingBy: Carol Feineman, Editor
Community involvement needed:
The community can help reduce the tragic consequences from drunk driving, according to Brenda Frachiseur, California state office’s executive director of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
“First, be responsible drinkers. Pay attention to those who had too much to drink. If you host a party, make sure friends aren’t too buzzed to drive,” Frachiseur said. “Take away their keys and simply make a plan to get home safely. It surprises me that people plan more on what they’re going to wear than how they’re going to get home safely.”
Parents: lead by example.
“They can talk to their kids and be good role models. If your children see you drink and drive, eventually they will drink and drive,” Frachiseur said. “If children see you in the car after a party and dad is driving drunk, they’ll think it’s OK to get into a car with a drunk driver. And underage drinking is not acceptable.”
a timely warning
“It’s the holiday season and parties and celebrations will be happening for the next couple months,” Frachiseur said. “We hope everyone enjoys themselves and the celebrations don’t turn into tragedy.”
When smart friends make excuses about acquaintances driving home from a get-together after consuming several drinks, I’m speechless.
My friends will say it’s the first time that the driver was intoxicated or that everyone makes a mistake. But, in the case of driving while intoxicated, the first time is one too many times and the potentially fatal mistake can always be avoided.
Just ask Brenda Frachiseur, the California state office’s executive director of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
National statistics show that individuals arrested for the first time have driven 87 times drunk on average, according to Frachiseur.
“In the state of California, in 2010, which are the latest statistics, 791 people were killed on California roadways and over 27,000 were injured due to DUI crashes,” Frachiseur said this week.”
In Placer County, 2010 statistics show more than 1,738 DUI arrests, 14 DUI deaths and 199 DUI injuries.
Nationwide, in 2010, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes (one every 51 minutes), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Today, the Placer County Probation Department, through a $68,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, focuses on high-risk DUI offenders (drivers on probation for felony DUI or multiple misdemeanor DUI convictions). Unannounced home searches, along with random alcohol and drug testing and monitoring, are being used, according to a press release from the probation department.
Greater emphasis needs to be on all offenders, however, including those getting pulled over for the first time. DUI deaths and injuries aren’t caused by only the high-risk drivers; the accidents are also caused by drivers who usually don’t operate a vehicle while intoxicated.
MADD officials want tougher laws in place
“When you talk about first-time offenders, they’re not first-time drinkers; they just haven’t been caught. Getting four DUIs is still a misdemeanor,” Frachiseur said. “It’s disheartening that people can get back into a car (after being arrested) and kill themselves and/or an innocent person.”
The state laws are too easy on drunk drivers. I know some residents with DUIs, who still drive.
“MADD would like to see the current laws enforced to their fullest. Some judges are more lenient than others and, because of the state budget, we don’t see many offenders being sentenced to the fullest extent of the law,” Frachiseur said. “In addition, only four counties in California currently mandate the interlock ignitions devices (IID) for first-time offenders, who have been people convicted of DUI. IID’s have been proven effective and MADD would like to see these life-saving devices installed for all first-time offenders.”
Conversations with my friends about not getting behind the wheel after partying continue to haunt me.
A successful businessman in his 50s recently became annoyed when I asked why he didn’t call a taxi after finishing a bottle of wine at someone’s house. He replied that the drive home was “just one easy mile on surface streets.”
Another friend recently had too much to drink. But, since she was “driving a slow NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle),” she said the drive home would be OK.
In both these examples, these usually rationale residents are missing the point: their driving is impaired. And, if they crashed on the way home, they would possibly hurt themselves as well as innocent bystanders.
The easy answer would be to call a taxi or ask a friend or family member to pick them up. But they didn’t take those steps.
This time, they were lucky. Next time, they might not survive.
Having these conversations with my supposedly smart friends is depressing. But I’m hopeful that some drinkers are becoming more responsible.
A few weeks ago, I was in a local parking lot when a stranger fell down after several hours of drinking.
When I told him he shouldn’t be driving, this stranger handed me his car keys and let me call a taxi to take him home.
Coincidentally, I saw this man three weeks later in the same parking lot. This time, he was sober. He didn’t remember talking to me and he didn’t remember giving me the keys three weeks prior.
I asked why he so easily handed over his car keys to someone he didn’t know the night he was plastered.
“I didn’t want to hurt the woman I was with,” he said simply.
I wish every resident, when intoxicated, would be as mature as this man and avoid getting behind the wheel.
Life is too precious to take a chance. This is one type of death we can avoid, if we become smart about drinking and driving.