Santa Claus skydives onto the 37th Training Wing parade field at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 4 to help the Texas Department of Transportation kick off its annual four-week drunken driving prevention campaign. This is the 10th year of the holiday public education campaign. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alan Boedeker) (Photo by Alan Boedeker)
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS —
A skydiving Santa Claus dropped into Lackland AFB on Dec. 4 to help launch the state's annual drunken driving prevention campaign.
The Air Force's commitment to safety and taking care of its Airmen made Lackland AFB a perfect backdrop for the start of the Texas Department of Transportation's four-week awareness rally, according to Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones, 37th Training Wing commander.
"In the Air Force, we have a concept we practice every day - the Wingman concept," the general said. "We look out for one another."
The Wingman philosophy, with its roots in the aviation field, challenges all military and civilian Airmen to take care of one another and ensure they are always doing the right thing, including when they are celebrating.
This practice can migrate into the civilian sector by individuals role modeling responsible behavior, especially to youths, such as drinking responsibly, not driving after drinking and not providing alcohol to minors.
Data analysis shows Texas leads the nation with the highest number of drunken driving-related fatalities, with 1,677 people dying in alcohol-related accidents in 2006.
Members of a eight-person panel, which represented various state organizations and businesses, presented ideas on how to lose that uncomplimentary ranking.
"A (running) meter is cheaper than incarceration or a funeral," pointed out George Alva, a driver and safety advocate for Yellow Checker Cab.
Driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher is grounds for incarceration and license suspension in Texas.
Designating a driver is another popular alternative to driving while legally intoxicated.
"The designated driver is not the person who has consumed the least amount of alcohol," warned Lizette Villarreal, the chair of Circles of San Antonio Community Coalition. The designated driver is the one who hasn't had a single, alcoholic drink.
Most businesses that serve alcohol provide free non-alcoholic beverages to individuals identified as designated drivers. Customers may need to ask their server about the program.
And simply because one may have made it home without incident in the past does not guarantee a safe trip home the next time, cautioned Jennifer Northway from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"Practice does not make perfect," Ms. Northway said. "There is no such thing as a safe (drunken) driver."
More law enforcement officials will be on the roads during the holidays to watch for drivers violating state DWI laws, thereby increasing the opportunity of going to jail instead of going home.
"Our intention is to ... encourage drivers to be sober," said Travis Hall, senior trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety. "Don't spend the holidays incarcerated with strangers."