Sobriety tests become part of 4-day weekends
February 17, 2012
HEIDELBERG, Germany - As part of the ongoing U.S. Army Europe Booze It and Lose It campaign, U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg Military Police will choose random times and gates during Presidents Day weekend and other four-day holiday weekends to test all drivers for alcohol consumption.
Four-day weekends are sometimes granted to service members when a federal holiday falls close to the weekend.
The Portable Breathalyzer Test involves breathing slowly into a straw on a hand-held device for about 15 seconds, and it is not optional.
The back of the U.S. Forces Certificate of License states that refusal will result in the instant revocation of driving privileges indefinitely, or for a minimum of 12 months.
The test helps military police distinguish between someone who displays common behavior associated with someone who is suspected of Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated (slurred speech, red eyes and conducting sobriety tests before instructed to do so) and someone who naturally has those mannerisms, said Staff Sgt. David Crocket, traffic investigations supervisor at the Provost Marshal Office on Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg.
The field test can potentially save a driver from a two-hour trip to the MP station, where the suspect would undergo more thorough testing to prove they were DUI or DWI.
The stakes of a DUI or DWI are high. The penalty for driving with a blood alcohol content of .10 percent or higher is considered a DWI and can include forfeiture of the U.S. Forces driver's license for one year or more.
Service members may also receive an Article 15. A DWI is a .08 to .099 percent BAC, and violators will be banned from driving 180 days, plus other possible consequences, usch as an Article 15 or other non judicial punishment.
In both cases, the individual's home of record will be notified and points or punishments will eventually be assessed on that state's license.
If an intoxicated U.S. forces driver is pulled over by the German police, he or she will be cited by both the MP and the German police, Crocket said.
Drinking and driving is an Army-wide problem. Crocket said many of the offenders on PHV, for example, live within walking distance of where they were drinking and determine the distance is close enough to drive. Crocket said he would much rather see someone who's had too much to drink get a ride from a sober friend or walk, or even better, use public transportation.
"We have an unbelievable mass transportation around here: cabs, trains, the streetcar. Most staff duties also have cab funds available or someone who can pick you up. There is absolutely no excuse to drive when you've been drinking. There is nowhere on PHV that's too far to walk. Patton Barracks is the same way. On Benjamin Franklin Village, the Top Hat Club is just as close to housing as anywhere else," Crocket said.
While it may appear as though the military police actively pursue drunk drivers to punish them, Crocket said the true mission of Booze it and Lose It is to discourage them from getting behind the wheel in the first place.
Even if one person thinks twice and decides not to drive after drinking, the program is successful, he added.
It appears it already is: Crocket said a random patrol set up in Mannheim recently found no one intoxicated above the legal limit, and many people did not know how to blow into the breathalyzer, indicating they have no previous experience with being pulled over for drinking.
The bottom line, Crocket said, is that drinking and driving is not worth a life, career, money or another life.
"As Soldiers, we always constitute a plan B in everything we do, so why when we're off-duty can we not even come up with plan A, a designated driver? This campaign is not an inconvenience or to hassle and arrest people; it's to save lives and deter drinking and driving," he said.