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DUI/DUA prevention key to safety, success

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Driving under the influence remains ever-present in our Air Force today, causing the possibility of physical and legal consequences to those who do it, but also the possible death or injury of others.

Ellsworth, of course, is not immune to DUIs and even cases of drinking underage. There have been 24 DUIs and 22 DUAs as of Sept. 17; this is equal to and well-ahead of the 24 DUIs and 11 DUAs charged up to September 2007. In the spirit of helping prevent future DUIs and DUAs, I want to take this opportunity to highlight my leadership philosophy on drinking and driving, the effects of drinking alcohol and the possible, and highly likely, consequences of drinking and driving.

My leadership philosophy on DUIs and DUAs is this: If you are not the legal age to drink - don't. Also, do not actively enable or passively condone others by doing nothing when you see it happen. If you are of the legal age to drink, then 'think before you drink'. The 'think before you drink' philosophy means before you start drinking, make a plan and execute it.

The plan can be as simple as designating a wingman to be your designated driver; a wingman can be a friend, spouse, peer or supervisor. You can call Safe Ride or arrange commercial transportation such as a taxi. The critical detail is to ensure your plan is in place and actionable prior to drinking, before you become impaired.

As sometimes a plan can go awry, I provide my contact information to all of my personnel and instruct them to call me anytime for a ride home with no questions asked, except the address of their residence, as part of a comprehensive effort to help prevent drinking and driving within my squadron.

Drinking and then driving while under the influence of alcohol is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Evidence researched over the past few decades clearly shows driving performance and reaction times are seriously reduced by alcohol. If you drink and drive, you are not only a danger to yourself but also to an unlucky passenger if you have one, other motor vehicle operators and pedestrians. In fact, every 30 minutes, someone in this country dies in an alcohol-related incident - every 30 minutes! Last year alone, more than 1 million people were injured in alcohol-related traffic accidents.

Alcohol is a depressant which slows down bodily reactions. Some of the effects are poor coordination, slurred speech, double vision, decrease of self-control, loss of consciousness and even death. The more you drink, the more your ability to make important driving decisions becomes impaired. After just one drink, you can lose your ability to safely perform the basic tasks necessary to drive a motor vehicle. At a certain point, you will become illegally intoxicated and can be arrested for attempting to or operating a motor vehicle; the consequences can be quite severe.

The consequences for DUI arrest impact your career, quality of life and pocket book. These repercussions and many more may affect a military member with a DUI conviction, such as:

· Mandatory physical fitness training with the wing commander at 5 a.m. for one week
· May affect re-enlistment; possible referral Enlisted or Officer Performance Report
· Subject to court costs and attorney fees if prosecuted off-base
· State may impose one-year imprisonment or $2,000 fine or both
· State may revoke driving privileges from 30 days to one year
· Insurance rates may triple or even quadruple
· Possible Article 15 or Court Martial, if aggravated
· Revocation of on-base driving privileges for one year
· Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Treatment program participation
· Subject to court-ordered dependency counseling

As you can see, the 'think before you drink' philosophy provides a common-sense approach to ensure you and others arrive home safely when choosing to drink. Without a plan, you risk your career, money, time and possibly even your freedom. Decide today to make a plan for a successful tomorrow - 'think before you drink'.