2014-03-28 / Front Page

DUI season approaching, officials urge caution

By Bonnie Heater
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office

This year’s winter storm showed that icy road conditions can be hazardous, but so can sharing the road with an impaired driver.

According to Lieutenant Roger Carver, the officer in charge of the Fort Gordon Traffic Management Collision Investigation section, driving under the influence rises as the weather gets warmer.

“In previous years, we have seen an increase in DUIs during the spring and summer,” Carver added. “In 2013, there were 63 service members charged with DUIs while driving off post and eight military members were charged with DUIs on Fort Gordon.”

“This year 17 service members have been arrested and charged with DUI while driving off post and two military members have been charged with DUIs on post,” he explained.

Carver said it’s getting more difficult to get away with drinking and driving in the Central Savannah River Area and on the installation. On post, the Fort Gordon Traffic section continues to use safety check points throughout the year to check for impaired drivers, according to Carver.

“Our mid-shift officers are trained through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to detect impaired drivers and are looking for DUIs nightly,” Carver explained.

“In the local communities, Georgia’s state campaign, Zero Tolerance, Rolling Thunder, has been effective in deterring and detecting impaired drivers,” he said. “The unannounced safety check points have generated numerous arrests.”

While alcohol affects individuals differently, there are established blood alcohol content limits set by the state of Georgia which can get a driver a DUI charge. According to Carver, a Blood Alcohol Content between .050 to .079 will result in a charge of DUI Less Safe for a driver involved in a traffic accident on- or off- post.

“If your BAC is .080 and higher, (the legal limit) you will be charged with a DUI on post and in Georgia,” Carver added.

“A BAC of .004 and above is the legal limit for a DUI charge if you’re driving a commercial vehicle and a BAC of .002 and higher will get a driver under the age of 21 and will also result in a DUI charge,” Carver explained.

There are penalties for driving impaired.

“A DUI is a misdemeanor,” he said. “It carries up to a $1,000 fine and/or 12 months in jail for the first offense. Normally, the driver will serve 12 hours in jail upon arrest is required to post bond. At that point, the service member is released to the custody of a Fort Gordon military police officer.”

“Normally, the driver is required to serve 40 hours of community service and must attend a DUI class, and can face suspicion of one’s driver’s license for one year,” Carver said.

“Four DUIs in the state of Georgia within a 10-year period is considered a felony,” Carver explained.

“Military commanders can also take Uniform Code of Military Justice actions against the military member charged with a DUI,” he said.

At Fort Gordon there are programs in place to help educate service members about the consequences of being arrested for impaired driving.

According to Col. Stephen Elle, the 15th Regimental Signal Brigade commander, Advanced Individual Training Soldiers are not authorized to drive privately owned vehicles.

“Although we did have one AIT Soldier receive a DUI charge,” Elle said. “He was illegally driving a civilian’s car while attempting to get back to the post before curfew and was arrested for DUI.”

“ We emphasized the negative impact of a DUI or driving while intoxicated during the new Soldiers reception,” the commander explained. “All command teams (brigade down to company) stress that acts of indiscipline will prevent them from taking advantage of the amazing opportunities the Army presents to Soldiers. I also use the same message when talking with our cadre during the cadre training course and when speaking with our captains, lieutenants and warrant officers.”

Each military service on Fort Gordon has a different way of dealing with potential DUIs. The Marines assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps Detachment have a program in place called, Arrive Alive. According to Marine Gunnery Sgt. Adam Neal, if Marines feel they have had too much to drink to drive, they can call a cab to take them to Fort Gordon.

“The command duty officer will pay the fare and the Marines are responsible for reimbursing the unit for the cab fare,” said Neal. “We are also required to carry a copy of our recall roster. If one of us needs help we can always call a Marine on the roster.”

“The Marines are also informed that if they are charged with a DUI they will not be allowed to reenlist,” said Neal.

The Sailors assigned to Navy Information Operations Command Georgia have a similar program in place, called Safe Ride.

“This program is run by Sailors who volunteer their time and transportation to provide free rides to shipmates who have had too much to drink,” explained Navy Master Chief Joanne T. Gibson, acting Command Master Chief, NIOC, Georgia. “Each Sailor is given the Safe Ride number when they check into the command when they are first assigned here.”

According to Gibson, there is a volunteer on duty seven days a week in the program.

“When a Sailor is out and needs a ride they can call the number to receive a free ride back to their resident,” the master chief explained. “No questions are asked and there is no roster kept of who requests a ride. Our volunteers have picked up military members from other services as well.”

While the Navy has a program in place to help keep a Sailor from getting a DUI, there are consequences if they are charged with driving under the influence.

“When a Sailor is arrested for a DUI they are automatically processed for non-judicial punishment,” Gibson said. The NJP is part of their permanent military record and it becomes difficult for the Sailor to continue his or her career. If deemed appropriate to separate the service member, this would be a separate administrative action.

The active duty Air Force unit, the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, on Fort Gordon, also have their own program.

“ We have a robust program that includes many facets, but the most visible is our Airmen Against Drunk Driving,” said Air Force Col. G. Keith Watts, the 480th ISR Group commander.

Airmen Against Drunk Driving is similar to the Marines’ and the Navy’s program and was formed to eliminate the number of DUIs and DWIs occurring on Air Force bases and in surrounding civilian communities. It’s also a volunteer program.

The main objective of AADD, according to an U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet, entitled “Airmen Against Drunk Driving”, is to prevent deaths, injuries, and illegal actions that result from driving under the influence. On the proactive front, the fact sheet states the Air Force educates base personnel on the severe consequences of driving under the influence and the importance of having a plan. If the plan fails, AADD offers maximum availability within the advertised operating hours.

While driving under the influence is a serious crime which can end one’s career, military members can use programs put in place and managed by volunteers in their services to prevent a DUI or DWI.

Know the facts about drinking and driving

An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before first arrest.

Every 51 minutes on average, someone is killed in a dunk driving crash (10,322 people in total in 2012). Every 90 seconds, someone is injured because of this entirely preventable crime.

Research shows that parental influence can reduce kids’ risk of underage drinking by up to 30 percent.

Enforcing the legal drinking age of 21 reduces traffic crashes, protects young people’s maturing brains and keeps young people safer overall.

Information courtesy of MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving at www.madd.org.

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