Warmest wishes for a happy holiday and a safe New Year. Please drive safely and, of course, use a designated driver if you’re drinking. A lot depends on it.
It’s up there with the worst wedding memories ever, probably. A woman in Marana, Arizona caused a three-car crash not long ago. She was arrested and tested for impairment. That in itself wouldn’t be big news, even in Arizona, which is fairly sane in the drunk driving world. But the woman was wearing a wedding dress, and was on her way to her wedding when the crash occurred.
There could have been all kinds of reasons for a wedding day DUI. She might have been drinking that day. Or she might have had a very big celebration the previous night and was still impaired.
But why did she get behind the wheel? Perhaps she was in such a good mood that she didn’t think anything bad could happen.
No Day, However Special, Is OK to Drive Drunk
In some ways, every DUI incident is a result of this kind of magical thinking. We’ve had too many drinks, and decide to drive. We won’t crash, because we can handle it. We’re not that drunk. We know the roads. We’ll be careful. Arrests and crashes happen on the news, not to me.
Magical thinking is comforting, but it doesn’t work. Of the 30,000 or so fatal alcohol-related crashes that occur each year, and the many more alcohol-related crashes that don’t result in death, all of them involved drivers who thought they were okay to drive. Even if they knew they were drunk, they thought they’d find their way home.
We weren’t told if the driver in this case made it to the church. If she did, then her wedding anniversary will also be the anniversary of her DUI. Not one for the memory book, perhaps.
In fixing drunk driving charges, most states make a distinction between run-of-the mill intoxicated and extremely drunk. The principle is that it’s worse to drive if the alcohol level is high enough to make a driver unable to control his or her vehicle at all.
Some states use “drunk” and “super drunk.” Arizona, however, has three levels of inebriation that its courts recognize:
- DUI: Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 08 percent or above
- Extreme DUI: Driving with a BAC of .15 or above
- Super Extreme DUI: Driving with a BAC of .20 or above.
What a BAC of .355 Means
Recently a woman was arrested for killing a motorcyclist while speeding at more than 80 miles per hour, and being drunk at the time. Her blood alcohol level was .355, more than four times the legal limit, and more than twice the Extreme DUI level.
At that level, a person is unable to walk unassisted. They are disoriented, depressed, and usually racked with nausea. Blackouts are common – at this level alcohol poisoning is very possible.
Yet it might be possible to step on the gas and reach 100 miles per hour, as the offender did.
A super extreme DUI is fairly rare, only because most people with that much alcohol in them are not coordinated enough to drive. But when a person can get on the road with a BAC that high, the results will almost certainly be disastrous, as they were in this case.
And though the crime is not common, it makes sense for Arizona to employ the distinction, so that those who do drink such staggering amounts and drive face consequences that are more severe. Extreme DUI is truly drunk driving on a different and more lethal level.
Sports figure. The story concerns David Parry, defensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts, who was recently arrested in Scottsdale. According to the NFL Player Arrest database maintained by USA Today, Parry is the first NFL player this year to be nabbed for DUI. There were ten last year.
Opinions are divided about whether or not athletes are over-represented in DUI court. The vast majority of sports figures get through any given year without driving drunk. But we do see a lot of arrests in the news. Is it just that they get more coverage?
Wee hours. This incident happened at 2:15 a.m., which is rush hour for DUIs. Most drunk driving arrests happen in the hours between midnight and 3 a.m., when those who have had too much at a bar or party are heading home.
Saturday. Weekends are prime time for drunk driving, for obvious reasons.
Young male. David Parry is 24, right in the top demographic for DUI arrests. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the highest percentage of drunk drivers are in the 21 to 24 age bracket, followed by ages 25 to 34. Drunk driving skews young.
Unusual vehicle. Most drunk driving occurs in cars and trucks, but the definition of motor vehicle is wide, and the definition of impaired driving is even wider. People have gotten DUIs on Segways, scooters, riding mowers, snowmobiles, Zambonis, tractors, and horses. In this case, Parry commandeered a golf cart and drove off. A Golf cart DUI is much more common than you might think.
Multiple charges. Parry allegedly punched a golf cart driver, stole the vehicle, and drove away. When apprehended, he struggled with the officers. The charges included robbery, car theft, criminal damage, resisting arrest and, of course, a golf cart DUI.
A lesson. Almost all of the DUI stories we read end badly – or else how would we be reading about them? So the lesson is a pretty obvious one – don’t drink and drive. Whether you are young or old, male or female, an NFL player or a short-order cook, and whether it’s 2 a.m. or high noon – you need all your faculties and judgement to drive safely. With alcohol, you don’t have them, and you end up in trouble.
Drive sober – please!
It didn’t take long to locate the one responsible for the rollover. A man fell out of a tree near the scene. He’d been hiding there to avoid the police.
In a successful attempt to do something even stupider, the suspect attacked the police, who quickly subdued him before he could do any harm. He’s been booked for aggravated assault and – no surprise here – DUI.
It’s hard to pin down what this drunk driver hoped to achieve by hiding in a tree. Was he expecting the police to just go away, leaving a rolled-over truck at the side of the road? Did he think he couldn’t be traced?
Or was he just hoping to hide until the effects of the alcohol wore off and he couldn’t be charged with DUI. Drunk driving in Arizona is not well-tolerated by state authorities. The law mandates ignition interlocks for all offenders, and levies stiff fines and prison sentences.
And falling out of the tree and attacking the police? Those illustrates the impairments that make drunk driving so dangerous in the first place: a lack of physical coordination and poor judgement. The suspect showed plenty of both during this incident.
And that’s about all we can learn from this incident. Drive drunk, and you’ll find yourself up a tree.
As it is now, so it has always been: the holidays are a dangerous time of year on the roads. People were always aware of it, though, as evidenced by this PSA by the National Foundation for Highway Safety, a Connecticut-based group that seems to have disappeared or been absorbed into another body. (Hat tip to Yesterday Television)
This public Service Announcement from The National Foundation For Highway Safety…. is as true today, as it was back, in the day.Merry Christmas!Yesterday Television
Posted by Yesterday Television on Sunday, December 11, 2016
Santa looks pretty desperate, and he should have been. If this was the early 60s – hard to pin it down – road deaths would have been approaching a thousand a week, and more than half of those would have been alcohol-related. There was still public resistance to treating drunk driving as a serious crime. Ignition interlocks had not been invented, and it was still customary to evade drunk driving charges with the aid of a good lawyer. Often drivers were sent home with a warning to “sleep it off.”
PSAs have gotten more sophisticated since this message was made. So have laws and enforcement strategies. 28 states now mandate ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses – including first offenses – and more are signing on every year. Licenses are suspended automatically upon arrest in many states, and vehicles are sometimes impounded – measures that protect innocent lives.
So please remember: if our public safety PSAs don’t look anything like they did 50 years ago, our roads still do. There are people out there who have been out celebrating with friends, and who haven’t had the good sense to get a taxi home. As Santa said, they “fool themselves into thinking that drinking does not affect their driving.”
They’ll run red lights. They’ll swerve out of their lane into oncoming traffic. They’ll fail to stop for pedestrians.
Watch out for them. And if you see someone at a bar, restaurant or party about to join their ranks, stop them. It’s the right way to show the holiday spirit.