It was a dark spring night about eight years ago and I was driving my patrol car down Sacramento Street towards Turner Road. I had a young citizen rider with me that night and I was in the middle of explaining the dangers of drunk driving to her when suddenly a car drifted into our lane. I quickly turned the wheel and was able to swerve to avoid being struck head on.
I spun my patrol car around and quickly caught up to stop the car. I met with the driver who I suspected might be DUI, and asked him to do some Field Sobriety Tests. He failed to perform the Field Sobriety Tests satisfactorily and I arrested him for DUI. His Blood Alcohol Content was .10%, just .02% above the legal limit. If you or I would have seen him walking down the street we would have no idea that he was too impaired to drive. However, when alcohol was combined with driving his impairment became evident. I bring his alcohol level up because he was probably only feeling a little buzzed or if he was accustomed to drinking it is possible he was "feeling fine." As the commercial goes "Buzzed driving is drunk driving."
That night my rider and I almost became victims of the most preventable crime, DUI. Most DUIs are misdemeanors. The only real difference between a misdemeanor DUI and a felony DUI is if injuries are sustained during an accident.
Later that year I attended a MADD vigil for the surviving victims of DUI collisions. At that early stage of my career, I was surprised at the number of people in attendance. Now years later I am surprised it was not a lot more.
Eight years later, during this year's Spring Wine Show we were out on a DUI grant. That weekend we made several arrests of drivers, including "designated drivers" who were too impaired to drive. I remember a call that weekend where again, a driver was almost struck head on as a DUI driver drifted into the opposing lane. Fortunately the sober driver was able to swerve with only the vehicles' mirrors striking each other.
Some people have proposed that DUI enforcement is too expensive for the results. If you asked someone who has been a victim of DUI collisions if there was a price tag too expensive for DUI enforcement and education the answer would be a resounding "No!" Officer Canestrino recently lost a friend to a DUI collision and I think his statement epitomizes our fight against DUI:
"No matter how hard I worked, I didn't get the one that mattered most to me personally." Cops can't be everywhere all the time, but the choice to have a sober driver can be made at any time.
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.