By Scott Prater
As the end-of-year holidays approach, Airmen, like the rest of America, are busy thinking of the next few weeks. They’ll make plans, shop and prepare for those few days when family and friends gather to relax and celebrate.
Most don’t care to think about tragedy at this time, but December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, also called 3D Month, for a reason.
With so many people celebrating, and consuming alcohol in the process, health organizations see this as an opportune time to get an important message out.
Thirty six people are killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes every day in the United States according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and three out of every 10 people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives.
Despite the staggering numbers, Eddie Roski, Schriever’s Drug Demand Reduction Program manager, says there’s no reason why drunk and drugged driving can’t be prevented in every case.
“The first thing to remember is to create a plan before you start drinking. If you wait until after, your judgment and thought process have already been compromised, so your plan has a better chance of failing,” Mr. Roski said.
Airmen who know they will be drinking should plan to have a designated driver, who will not consume alcohol, take them home at the end of the night or event. It’s also a good idea to carry the phone number of a company that provides rides.
“I always tell people that it’s cheaper to pay for a cab than for a DUI,” Mr. Roski said. “I even recommend calling a tow truck. Think about it; a tow truck driver will pick you and your car up, and take you home. Even if members need to call their first sergeant, that’s a better idea than driving drunk. Your first sergeant would rather pick you up any place, than pick you up from jail.”
Colorado law enforcement agencies have made it clear; officers have already stepped up aggressive enforcement tactics and will be on the lookout for drunk and drugged motorists this holiday season. More than 30,000 Colorado motorists are arrested for impaired driving each year, including people who consumed legal prescription drugs.
Punishment is not just a slap on the wrist either. Mr. Roski estimates that a first-time driving-under-the influence conviction will cost a driver more than $10,000. It also qualifies as a criminal offense, which could include imprisonment, probation and community service. Airmen who risk getting behind the wheel after drinking also risk damaging their military careers.
“Airmen need to understand the heavy consequences they face by deciding to get behind the wheel after drinking. We can help prevent drunk and drugged driving by making responsible choices, identifying sober designated drivers and educating young people about its dangers,” Mr. Roski said.
Even if members are non drinkers who like to host gatherings for families and friends, they need to understand their responsibilities, and that they can take steps to prevent others from driving after drinking.
“You don’t want to let anyone who has been drinking at your place leave drunk,” Mr. Roski said. “If they kill or hurt someone or themselves then the party hosts can be held liable.”
Tara Wafel, Schriever’s Health Education Program Manager, attacks the issue from a health stand point.
“There is a significant health aspect to alcohol,” Ms. Wafel said. “Airmen can act responsibly by consuming alcohol in moderation, and by being a good wingmen. It’s shocking to think about how many people are affected by impaired drivers. We all know 10 people. To think that three of those will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in our lifetime is unreal.”
Ms. Wafel often drives home the wingman message with Airmen who visit the health and wellness center, something Mr. Roski also stresses when talking to both first term Airmen and seasoned military members.
“You may be responsible and have your plan and then go somewhere and see another Airman whose not making the right choice,” he said. “It’s easy to exercise your wingman philosophy and intervene before that person does something they’ll regret. Tell him/her to call to call a taxi. That’s what a wingman is for: To intervene and provide support.”