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Drinking and driving don’t mix: find a ride, stay alive

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | August 11, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas --

Drinking and driving can be a deadly mix, with 28 people every day in the U.S. dying in vehicle crashes caused by a drunk driver – a fatality every 51 minutes.

In addition, military members are not immune to the dangers of drinking and driving as 146 active-duty personnel died in vehicle crashes worldwide in 2016, with 60 percent of those accidents alcohol related.

John McLaughlin, 502nd Air Base Wing occupational traffic safety specialist at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, said anyone who is under the influence of alcohol should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

“A person that is drunk behind the wheel has reduced reaction time and impaired judgment,” McLaughlin said. “Those two things alone cause many accidents with drunk drivers.”

According to the National Commission Against Drunk Driving, alcohol is a depressant that slows down the functions of the body’s central nervous system, affecting a person’s information-processing skills and hand-eye coordination.

Research has shown a driver with a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, level of 0.08, the legal limit for drunk driving in all 50 states, is 11 times more likely to get involved in a crash than those drivers who have no alcohol in their system. BAC refers to the amount of alcohol contained in a person’s blood.

McLaughlin said there are tools and resources people can utilize to prevent drinking and driving and save lives.

Those resources include Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving, a program that provides a phone number for JBSA active-duty and military family members to call a volunteer designated driver if they are unable to drive home after having too much to drink. The designated drivers are on call Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 2:15 a.m. at 210-710-7171.

A designated driver is a person who agrees not to drink alcohol so he or she can transport someone who is drinking safely to their home.

Service members who utilize the AFADD hotline for a designated driver will need to provide their name, phone number, location, number of people to be picked up and a drop-off location. The AFADD service is free.

McLaughlin recommends that JBSA members keep the AFADD hotline number on hand in their cell phone, just in case they need to call a designated driver. The AFADD also has a business card that can be carried in a wallet or purse.

Also, other safe alternatives include calling a taxi or a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft, using public transportation or for active-duty members, calling their supervisor, wingman or battle buddy if they need a ride.

Or if a person under the influence of alcohol is at a friend’s place, stay safe and sleep on a couch or bed for the night.

McLaughlin said another option is to have a designated driver in a group who agrees not to drink alcohol so he or she can provide a ride home to those group members who are drinking.

When planning activities in the evening that include alcohol, McLaughlin said one of the keys to having a safe time is to stay together as a group.

Situations that can lead to people driving while intoxicated include getting separated from their group or designated drivers who end up drinking, McLaughlin said.

“Alcohol affects judgment,” he said. “Without anyone (in a group) that is sober, it’s difficult to stop them from getting behind the wheel.”

McLaughlin said one thing service members and people need to be aware of when driving at night is drivers who are drunk going the wrong way, particularly on freeways. He suggests not driving in the left lane of a freeway during the late evening and early morning hours because those are the lanes drunk drivers will be driving the wrong way in, believing in their intoxicated state they are in the right lane.

He said choosing to stay sober and not to drink and drive is a decision that can be the difference between life and death, and for service members it can have either a positive or negative impact on their careers, particularly in line of duty determinations.

For information and facts about drinking and driving, visit http://www.txdot.gov/driver/sober-safe.html.

502nd Air Base Wing Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving Drinking and driving National Commission Against Drunk Driving