On Aug.17, the 2012 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' campaign kicked off. Agencies throughout Stanislaus County and elsewhere in California participated in this federally-sponsored anti-DUI initiative. As I was researching this issue, I saw a surprising but sad statistic: approximately 1.2 million people get arrested every year for DUI. Another scary statistic is that so-called first-time offenders have driven intoxicated at least 80 times before getting arrested.
The Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) website lists some other daunting facts related to intoxicated driving, including the fact that 28 people each day die in DUI collisions, and, "on average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime."
The economic loss in the United States due to intoxicated motorists is a staggering $132 billion, which comes in the form of medical costs, deaths, loss of employment and victim productivity, property damage (vehicles, etc.,) higher insurance rates, court costs, and the expenses associated with incarceration and the other forms of punishments meted out by the courts.
The next time you are driving (particularly during the evening hours) on a two-lane, undivided roadway, think about the fact that any number of motorists traveling the opposite direction are intoxicated and are a direct threat to you and your family. In just a blink of an eye, one of these DUI motorists can cause you and your family enormous injuries and even death. It is totally unfair, and none of us deserve to be exposed to such dangers, yet, it happens all the time.
It does seem that DUI driving gets so much publicity as to wear out the message, but the stakes are so high that it should not be ignored. Frankly, we cannot call enough attention to the subject. In my nearly 40 years of law enforcement experience, I have seen too many tragedies to count involving DUI drivers where people have been killed, children thrown from cars and run over, entire families killed in a single DUI crash, people crippled, limbs severed, permanent brain damage, loss of eyesight, and permanent injuries that leave the victims unable to work and care for their families.
I have also seen people burn to death while trapped in cars that were struck by an intoxicated motorist, and I have many others memories of these types of tragedies that I will never be able to erase. The statistics speak for themselves, but what I have seen firsthand has much to do with why Ceres police officers are so rigorous in their efforts to find and arrest intoxicated motorists.
Because of the DUI threat on our roadways, it becomes clear that our roadways are far less safe than they should be. And the sad part of this is that DUI driving is totally avoidable! All it takes is to make arrangements for a designated driver to transport you or hail a taxi ride home. With the average total cost for a non-collision DUI nearing $7,000 just in fines and fees, just a $20 or $30 taxi ride home is a no-brainer and the right thing to do.
Art De Werk is the Chief of Public Safety in Ceres