Driving under the influence is probably one of the most preventable crimes on the planet. There have been numerous campaigns trying to prevent drunk driving, ranging from DUI checkpoints, catchy slogans, increased enforcement, you name it. It's all been done, and it will all continue being done. However, I'm going to break it down real easy for everyone who still doesn't get it.
First of all, this is not going to be a column describing how many drinks you can have and still be legal, or how long you should wait after drinking before it's legal to drive. It's going to be a dead honest, possibly offensive, factual analysis of the subject.
Let's define driving under the influence first.
Driving under the influence means being under the influence of anything that impairs your driving. That means anything. I don't care if its cough syrup, allergy medicine, over the counter medications, prescription drugs, or alcohol. If it is affecting your ability to drive safely, you're DUI.
A couple of drinks affects everyone differently. Some people can barely drive well enough sober, let alone after one or two.
Everything makes a difference regarding your blood alcohol content and your ability to drive. What you have eaten, your age, your size, your health, your medications, what you drank and how fast you drank. They all make a difference.
During a DUI stop, we generally ask people how much they have had to drink. Guess what the No. 1 answer is: "One or two."
Surprisingly people rarely tell us, "Well, after the first pitcher, I had four shots, one more beer, then had a Long Island iced tea before I left. After that, I went to the drive-thru, got a burger, pulled over for 10 minutes to eat, then tried to make it home."
To those of you who routinely only have "a couple" and drive, let's make up a little scenario. Let's say that you go to the hospital for a routine hernia operation. Pretty standard operation that most surgeons could probably do blindfolded. As you are on the table, right before you go under anesthesia, you see the surgeon finishing a beer. The surgeon notices that you are a bit nervous, and tells you, "Don't worry, I've only had a couple. I should be fine."
Is this really any different than rolling the dice behind the wheel? I don't think so. The only real difference is the surgeon only stands to kill you.
Here's another good one: "I drive better after having a couple of drinks, because I actually drive more cautiously." (Yes, we've heard that one many times.) This actually says a few things about your personality. First, its just not smart. Second, if you drive better after having a few, I can't wait to see how you drive sober.
I have personally arrested, or seen arrested, many a drunk driver who actually had a perfectly sober licensed passenger in the car. I, of course, can't help but politely ask the sober person what they were thinking. The answer is usually, "I didn't think he or she was that bad."
What? And how bad is "that bad?" So does that mean being just a little bad is all right? What if the accident you get into only kinda kills you? What if you are only kinda injured? I guess that's all right ...
Let me sum this all up. If you have been drinking, don't drive. Don't try to do the math and figure out if you are sober enough. If you have to think about it that hard, you're drunk.
If you are going out drinking, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not planning ahead. If you are incapable of planning ahead, maybe you shouldn't even be driving in the first place. If you are sober, you drive! Don't be shy about it. Speak up. The life you save just may be your own.
We can probably all think of someone whose life has been affected by a drunk driver. It's avoidable! If you seriously think, "It can't happen to me," you just played your first round of Russian Roulette ... but the gun was pointed at everyone on the street.
Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at firstname.lastname@example.org; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.