Though all types of people drink and drive, researchers say the common drunk driver is the younger man, age 18 to 29, who takes risks and is a sensation seeker, exactly the kind of person fit for military duty, according to an article on the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association website.
"Nowhere in the Army do we find it okay to put innocent civilians at risk," said Maj. William Pitts, 1st Infantry Division psychiatrist. "We will go out of our way and sustain injuries to ourselves and our forces to protect the innocent. Yet, when it comes to DUIs, people are out on the roads drinking and driving with very little consideration to the person who's driving next to them, toward them or walking down the street."
He said statistics show most people who are caught drinking and driving have done it before.
"They say, 'it's not going to happen to me, I know better,'" he said. "It's not their first time, they've done it dozens of times. So, they're right in a way. Until it does and when it does, it can cost them everything. Or it can cost the people around them a lot more. Killing somebody or maiming someone, that's a really hard message to get out. If it were easier, we would have fixed this with all the time, money and effort that we're putting into it."
After a DUI charge, it can be hard to find a new normal especially after being separated from the Army, he said.
"I think a lot of what people struggle with is that kind of loss of identity," he said. "Thursday, you are a Soldier. Friday morning you're a Soldier. Friday afternoon or Saturday morning after your DUI, everything's different. So, for young Soldiers, they're dealing with a lot of lost opportunity. And for a more seasoned Soldier, the 10, 12, 14, 16 years that you've put into this career, now slips (through) your hands pretty quickly when it comes time to go through the administrative separation process. So, there are a lot of people that have to figure out who they are, reidentify themselves after having such an insult to their ego."
When driving privileges are revoked because of a DUI charge, the person can feel like they have lost their freedom, he said.
"The degree to which it gets more difficult for their day-to-day life is hard to describe," he said. "It's almost unimaginable. When you lose so much, not just financially, you lose a lot of freedom. In the military there is not a lot of freedom as it is. We are already being told where to be, when to be there and how to be dressed for the occasion. But when you lose the ability to even get yourself there, and you have to start hitting up other people for a ride, you lose a lot of personal freedom. When you need someone to give you a ride so you can go to an AA meeting, it's hard."
The counselors at the Fort Riley Army Substance Abuse Program are available for those Soldiers who need someone to talk to about the problems they are having with an alcohol addiction. They have information to help with alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment. Contact the ASAP at 785-239-5075 of visit the facility at 7424 Apennines Dr. Their hours of operation are Mondays through Thursdays 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and non-RDO Fridays 7:30 to 4 p.m.