Driving after drinking not worth the risk

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- You're not dependent on alcohol and you wouldn't be considered an alcohol abuser, so therefore, you're not at risk of causing an alcohol-related accident. Right? Wrong.

In fact, statistics show that only 8.5 percent of the American population meets the criteria of being an alcohol abuser, but according to a national survey conducted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the majority of those who reported driving under the influence of alcohol in the 12 months prior to the survey were neither dependent nor abusers of alcohol.

With that statistic in mind, officials here said it's important to realize that regardless of how often or how much you typically drink, it only takes one instance of driving under the influence to drastically change your life forever.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2003 an estimated 275,000 people were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present -- that's an average of one person injured approximately every 2 minutes. In 2004 the Fatality Analysis Reporting System confirmed that there had been 14,409 fatalities from motor vehicle traffic crashes. NHTSA's statistics for 2004 also show that for the state of Delaware alone, out of 134 total fatalities in motor vehicle crashes, 51 were alcohol-related.

Obviously, the chances of you injuring or killing yourself, someone else, or multiple people are quite high. While there really is no way to describe the guilt and suffering that you would most certainly have to deal with for the rest of your life, base officials urge everyone to keep in mind the impact that an accident would have on the victim's family members.

Regardless of whether you've ever been an abuser of alcohol, one poor decision to drive while intoxicated could utterly devastate family and friends left behind. Officials here remind everyone to ask themselves, 'Do I really want to be the reason a child has to grow up without his mother or father, or the reason someone's parents have to experience the worst heartache and sadness possible?'

While that may be the worst scenario of driving under the influence, officials urge drivers not to be fooled into thinking that everything will be okay just because an occasion of drinking and driving does not result in any injuries or fatalities; there will be plenty of other consequences. If you are suspected of driving under the influence, stopped by civilian law enforcement or Security Forces, and charged with a DUI, your life will be altered significantly.

Chances are that if you've never been pulled over for a suspected DUI, you're not familiar with what actually occurs.

Imagine that you've just returned back to base after an evening out; you've drank enough to make Security Forces suspicious as you drive through the gate and are promptly pulled over. According to the 436th Security Forces Squadron, standard procedures will guarantee that you are given a field sobriety test and a preliminary breath test. If the results of those tests prove positive that you have had more than the legal limit to drink, you will be apprehended.

Keep in mind that if you are arrested, your supervisors and commander will find out. Once at the station, an intoxalizer will be used to precisely confirm your blood alcohol content. If the BAC is .08 or higher, you will be read your rights and held at the station until your first sergeant or representative sent by the first sergeant arrives to pick you up; you will not be released to anyone else.

The report of your DUI is processed and sent to your squadron, according to Capt. Byron Greene, 436th Legal Office. Your squadron will then coordinate with the legal office to determine disciplinary action. Although there are several variables determining exact punishment, likely penalties under military jurisdiction include reduction in rank, fines, extra duty, reprimand and correctional custody. A DUI can, in some cases, lead to a general court-martial, which could result in a dishonorable discharge and confinement.
For off-base offenses, fines, imprisonment, revocation of license and potential punishment on-base are all possibilities.

With so many ways your life will be affected if you drink and drive, officials here say there's no sense in taking the risk and remind everyone of 0-0-1-3: 0 drinks if you are under 21, 0 DUIs, a maximum of 1 drink per hour and a maximum of 3 drinks in one night.