By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 7, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- While the cost of a taxi can be substantial and the use of a designated driver can be inconvenient, the bill for driving while intoxicated can often add up to the loss of lives, or heavy fines and the loss of driving privileges.
More than 10,000 deaths resulted from alcohol-related driving accidents in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and although fatalities from drunk driving have fallen over the years, the risk still remains high.
As the holiday season gets under way and more people brave the roadways to visit family and friends, personal responsibility has a big part to play in making sure people stay safe when it comes to consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel, said Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker Community Police chief.
"Just be cognizant If you are going to consume alcohol," said the police chief. "First, the most important thing is, we would like to see people use designated drivers. Before you even start your partying, identify that person in advance.
"Even one drink is too many at times (when it comes to driving), so we ask that if you're going to drink alcohol, do not drive back home," he continued. "Call yourself a taxi, call a friend, call a family member to come get you, so that we're not on the wrong end of that with someone being stopped for (driving under the influence)."
Dr. Wendy Blevins, Army Substance Abuse Program alcohol and drug control officer for Lyster Army Health Clinic, said it's this time of year that people who might not normally consume alcohol will drink to partake in celebrations with friends and family, and because of that, people should be extra aware of their intake.
"In some cases, things can get out of hand," she said. "Getting a costly DUI has no benefits or return. With fines, court costs, bail, attorney's fees, towing and other costs from arrest to conviction -- not including physical and emotional damages."
According to the NHTSA, a first-time offense can cost a driver up to $10,000 in fines and legal fees, with penalties ranging from license revocation to jail time.
"A taxi ride home only costs an average of $20 in comparison, which is money better spent on gifts and goodwill," said Blevins. "Good cheer, festivity and romantic celebrations can be achieved without high-risk behaviors. Please make plans to responsibly celebrate, so that you can enjoy the fun without tickets and fines or worse."
And things can get worse with alcohol-related crashes resulting in thousands of deaths annually in the U.S. alone, and although a death resulting from DUI is painful any time of year, it can be particularly difficult around the holidays.
"These are the worst kinds of accidents because they are preventable," said Dumais. "It's just on the driver themselves -- as long as they don't get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, we won't see these types of accidents."
If drivers are arrested on post for DUI, they will incur a mandatory one-year suspension of driving privileges on the installation, which can affect the jobs of those who work on the installation, said Dumais.
"If you're civilian, you will be prosecuted by the state's attorney for the DUI, but regardless of your affiliation with the military, there is a one-year mandatory suspension from driving on Fort Rucker," said the police chief. "That's the big thing for people who work on post. At that point, if you lose your license for a year on post, how will you get to work?"
Dumais said that before people consume alcohol, they should be aware of how it will affect their judgment because the effects of alcohol are different from person to person depending on height, weight and tolerance.
But regardless of size or tolerance, he said people should remember one thing.
"The best thing to do is if you're going to drink over the holidays, do not drive," he said.