Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over
Somewhere in America on a warm August evening a 16-year-old girl backed out of a friend’s driveway, unaware that a car was speeding toward her. The drunk driver, traveling more than 100 mph in a 30 mph zone with a blood alcohol concentration of .12 percent, crashed into the passenger side of the girl’s car.
The impact of the collision instantly killed both the driver and her friend who was sitting in the passenger seat.
The parents described their daughters as beautiful, kind, smart girls who always encouraged friends to be good and safe. In fact, these are the types of teens who insisted on calling for a ride home rather than getting into a car with a friend who had been drinking.
The drunk driver, in this case, was convicted of two counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Because he had multiple convictions for driving under the influence (DUI), he will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence.
These stories are always painful. They are the kind of stories we try to forget—the ones we hope and pray will never happen to our own family, to our friends, or to the kids in our Ukiah community.
They break our hearts because they involve senseless loss of life.
They often begin as stories of a fun farewell to summer—a weekend of teenagers, families, or friends enjoying the lake or a trip to the river, or a dozen other fun activities, but all too often they end in tragedy.
Drunk driving is a crime that affects not only the drunk driver and others using the roadway, but all of us—the friends and family of people hurt by it. The good news is that if we have the courage to stop it, it is a crime we can prevent entirely.
As we celebrate the end of summer this Labor Day weekend, I hope everyone will have the courage to help prevent drunk driving because if we don’t, the following statistics won’t change.
In the United States, drunk driving accidents injure people about every 90 seconds, and they kill people about every 53 minutes (9,878 people lost their lives in 2011).
Unfortunately, repeat offenders cause about a third of drunk driving problems: arrests, crashes, injuries, and deaths.
Summer time and holidays like Labor Day are particularly dangerous for encountering drunk drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 138 people died in drunk driving crashes during Labor Day weekend in 2011.
For most teenagers, Labor Day is one last weekend to relax and spend time with friends before the new school year starts. That’s why this is an incredibly important time to start a conversation with teens about underage drinking. To help with the conversation, Mother’s Against Drunk Driving offer the following tips:
- Communicate before a problem starts – have important discussions now about the dangers of alcohol.
- Discuss rules and consequences – tell your teen plainly that you don’t want him or her drinking and driving.
- Show you care – explain that’s why you need to talk together about the dangers of underage drinking.
- Pay attention – even when life gets hectic, take time out to listen to your teen. Monitor where your teen is and what your teen is doing.
- Share family activities – have dinner together.
- Give and get respect – when your teen talks to you, listen and reply respectfully. Insist that your teen do the same for you.
- Enforce consequences consistently – if your teen breaks the rules, stay calm and enforce the consequences.
To help prevent drunk driving this Labor Day weekend, California Highway Patrol Officers, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Ukiah Police Officers will be looking for and arresting drunk drivers.
And these DUI arrests and fines are not cheap.
Here in Mendocino County, a person’s first DUI costs them about $2,700 in court fines and fees plus additional attorney’s fees, 48 hours in jail, the time it takes to complete an alcohol education program, and loss of your driver’s license (for a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of six months).
Like I said before, the good news is that DUIs can be prevented; it just takes a little planning.
How? Always designate a driver, even if you’re just going to dinner. Decide at the beginning of every event who will drive home. If you are with friends who have not planned well and it appears they should not be driving home, insist on figuring out a way to get them (and if possible, their vehicle) home safely.
I know this can be tough. It’s hard to tell a friend or family member that they shouldn’t drive, especially after a few drinks when they’ve become a little belligerent or overconfident in their driving abilities.
Standing up to them can be awkward for you and embarrassing for them; but take it from me, it’s worth it. Attending their funeral or visiting them in jail is a lot more awkward.
This Labor Day weekend, I hope everyone has a chance to visit with friends, escape work for a few days, and celebrate the end of a great summer.
Most importantly, I pray that everyone has the courage to help us keep drunk drivers off our roads.
As always, our department’s mission is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.