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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

TLC's DUI...

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you will know that I’m listed as one of the Top 40 Blogs against drunk driving. I’m proud of having that honor and am a die-hard advocate of drunk driving prevention. When I noticed a program on TLC titled “DUI” I knew I would be watching.

They are 30-minute programs that show many people being stopped at safety checkpoints in Oklahoma. Many drivers are shown in varying states of drunkenness – zero to off the charts stupid. Two of the stopped drivers are featured for each program. The two drivers are followed from the roadside sobriety test all the way to their court appearance.

I’ve never been arrested and that means, I have no first hand knowledge of what it’s like to have your mug shot taken and placed in a cell. Well… I’ve been fingerprinted from employment security purposes and I’ve been searched by TSA agents at the airport. But, somehow, I just don’t think that equates to the fingerprinting and searching at the jail.

It was interesting to see the process. I was expecting to see more of a “Scared Straight” type of jail scene, but it was just not there. Everything was clean and the officers were understanding and – actually – compassionate. They weren’t wimps. I wouldn’t want to take any of them on. But, I would not have been afraid of them.

All the drivers arrested were remorseful. Of course they would be, they’ve been arrested and are on camera, for heaven’s sake! But another thing kept being repeated over and over again by the drivers. They all stated at some point in the process that “they didn’t deserve this.” I wondered what they DO deserve for putting other people’s lives in danger. What did the drunk drivers think would be an appropriate punishment? Would they deserve it if they killed someone as a result of driving under the influence?

I was further dismayed when not even ONE of the drivers served ANY jail time. They were all either issued deferred sentences (meaning their record would be expunged if they had no further incidents within the next year) or probation. Some lost their licenses for a while – but not long enough. One young lady was required to install a breathalyzer in her car. I thought that was a good thing. But, in general, the state of Oklahoma would be an easy state to live in if I were prone to drunk driving.

There was a gentleman who decided to go into rehab after the arrest. He was not forced into it by the judge. He simply made a decision to go and then went. When he completed rehab, he went back to court and received a sentence that made him spend two weekends in jail. My hope is that he continues along his non-alcoholic path. So let me get this straight -- this guy stopped denying that he has a probem and got help and still served some time. The others stayed in denial, one even openly continued to drink excessively, and they didn't spend so much as one full night in jail. How is that justice?

Two of the drivers featured on the program had all charges dropped. After submitting to the blood test to determine the level of alcohol in the system, there was not enough to deem them as drunk drivers. I think it’s good for us to see that law enforcement makes mistakes and that we have nothing to fear if we are not intoxicated. As I was watching the field sobriety test, I knew I would fail without so much as being in the neighborhood with alcohol. I can’t stand on one foot and my balance is not so good, so I’m not sure I could walk that straight line so well. I always lose my place when counting backward. So although I don’t drink – I might not pass the test. It’s good to know that a blood test would absolve me.

But, the two that were fortunate enough to get the charges dropped had actually been drinking before they got behind the wheel. They just had not drank enough to warrant any consequences. I wonder if they had just been stopped too soon. If they had been stopped an hour later, would they still have been let off? Or would have be drunker because he had more time to get wasted?

It was only the first four programs in a series, so maybe the cops and judges will get more hard-nosed as the program goes on. I certainly hope so. I would not want my teenagers to view this show, because I don’t like the message it sends. The learning experience here is not the dangers of drunk driving, but rather that you can get away with it with only minor consequences. It also doesn’t seem to convey that jail is such a bad place. You go to jail, get a bond and then go home. It just appears way too simple.

According to the NIAA website, in 2004, 39.5% of all fatal traffic accidents were alcohol related. (See  http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/QuickFacts/TrafficCrashes/Pages/crash01.aspx) I suppose that’s good since it has come down from the 1982 statistic of 59.6%. And according to the CDC we've only come down to 32% in 2009. (See http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html)  So we’ve come down from more than half to about a third. I guess that’s something we can be proud of. But, I still don’t think those are very good odds.

I know of one drunk that does not drive because I make it impossible for him to do so. Riley badgers me everyday to get his car running so he can drive. But, I drag my feet and make excuses because to turn him lose on the road would be paramount to putting a loaded gun in his hand in the middle of Times Square and telling him to shoot the pigeons. It’s just not a good idea.

In my opinion, TLC has an opportunity to show the real dangers of drunk driving. My message to them is – toughen up. The real danger is not that the wife will be upset or that they may lose their jobs. The real danger is that some innocent person may end up dead in the middle of the pavement on a cold, dark road. Drunk drivers need a reality check. TLC has the chance to do that and I hope they don’t miss the mark.

DUI is scheduled to air again on December 15, 2011 beginning at 8 pm and will show four programs in a row. It will also repeat two programs beginning at 11 pm that same night. On December 16, 2011 two shows will repeat at 1 am.


Kitty said...

Even though I drink pretty excessively at times I NEVER drive drunk. Not even after one beer. I've managed to find many other ways to get around either by cab, bus, or my feet. Many times we will choose what we are going to do socially based on location. If I have to drive I have to choose not to drink at that event, and sometimes that happens. I'm fine with staying sober when I choose it.
It pisses me off to see friends drink and drive. Most of my friends do not drink alcoholically and make pretty good choices but I badger my friends who drink too much. I plead with them not to drive. I try to take away their keys. I beg them to sleep over at our home instead. sometimes it works, and sometimes they go off into the night and I'm just glad I'm not out on the road with them.

Eclectic Bohemian said...

Unfortunately, the first and most deeply effected part of the brain from alcohol is the Cerebrum. Tiny amounts of alcohol such as .01% can effect it. (The legal limit is .08%)

The Cerebrum is located in the brain's frontal lobe, which is behind the forehead. This is where your thought process, reasoning, decision making, judgement and perception occur. (If you've ever known someone who has had a direct blow to the forehead and sustained permanent damage, you'll notice that most of the areas that I mentioned are severely effected.)

Like I said, unfortunately the Cerebrum is the first & most pronounced area of the brain to be effected by alcohol. It pretty much puts that area to sleep. IMO this is why there are so many drunk drivers. (On fundamental level anyway) Luckily there are a few people who will not drive regardless of how much they've had to drink. I've known people who won't drive after drinking 5 oz. of wine WITH dinner. Hey, that's fine by me...better safe than sorry. On the flip side once a person has had that same amount, their reasoning, judgement and decision making has been seriously effected. THAT'S NOT TO SAY THAT THEY ARE DRUNK. I'm just saying that their ABILITY to judge whether or not they are safe to drive is damaged. So naturally they are going to insist they are fine to drive. (And many of them will truly believe that they are)

Ohio has changed the DUI laws for the better in the last few years. It used to be that many times people could get their DUI reduced to "Wreckless Operation of a Motor Vehicle" and it generally didn't carry any suspension time. Just a hefty fine. Now it is almost unheard of for someone to be charged with "Wreckless Op." First time DUI offenders in Ohio has an automatic 90 day license suspension. If you test over .15 in Ohio, it is considered high test BAL and your suspension, jail time, fines, etc. are doubled. You may refuse a breath analysis but if you refuse that AND blood analysis, it is an automatic 1 year suspension of your license. (The amount of suspension time corresponds to the person's amount of time(s) for refusal. 1st time=1 year, 2nd time=2 years, etc)

The MINIMUM that a person convicted of his/her first time DUI is 90 days license suspension, $250 fine, 6 points on license and 3 days in jail and 1 year probation. In lieu of 3 days in jail, Ohio has what is called a 72 hour driver intervention program. This is only available for first time DUIs. IMO its actually better than 3 days in jail. They have put together a very informative and comprehensive program to educate offenders about driving while intoxicated. The 72-hr intervention programs are held at various drug and alcohol treatment centers throughout the state. They are also held at various hotels. (The ones held at hotels are still performed by licensed drug and alcohol counselors) At both places you are considered in lock-down and cannot leave the facility for the 72 hours. (If a person does, they can be arrested and taken to jail) At the hotel hosted program, if you are not in a workshop/lecture-you are to be in your room. (They have staff to monitor this and to make sure nobody is ordering &/or consuming alcoholic beverages)

First time offenders are also required to attend what is called a Victim Impact Panel discussion. To me this was the most important thing out of everything. There is usually 4-6 victims that tell you their story. Some were hit by a drunk driver, some may have had a loved one killed by a drunk driver, etc. Very, very powerful.

jo said...

interesting, Eclectic. thanks for the explanation. do you know why this seems to change as the A is end stage? 4 beers and mine is nuts. 10 and he is almost impossible to handle at all. i wonder if more alcohol is reaching the brain...cause this is changing as time goes on.

as to driving...the trouble with any of those classes is they appeal to the idea one can logically teach a alcoholic. one cant. if one could, we could fix addiction. same with anger management.,there is no way to teach this. you have to change fundamentally, and a class isnt gonna work on a A. society doesnt get it. "if we just show em, they will not drink" oh yeah, that will work. NOT.

mine drives., he is far too mean to get between him and his beer. and i gave up on being his parent a long time ago.

Linda (The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife) said...

Eclectic -- Thanks for the info. I wish all the states would adopt Ohio's program. I love the idea that they are in lock down for 72 hours.

Jo -- The alcoholic toxins accumulate in the frontal lobe of the brain. When the alcoholic drinks more alcohol it just adds to the amount they already have. Think about a sponge that you squeeze some of the liquid out of. When you dip it in liquid again, it is soppy much sooner. That's the brain on alcohol over long periods of time. It takes less for them to get drunk, because they are never really sober.

Have Myelin? said...

My daughter died of alcoholism.

She had a DUI. I often wonder if that DUI, if handled correctly by the legal system AND family could have been .... well, a way to change her path.

I am all onboard for real solutions. I didn't like the way my daughter's DUI was handled at all.

She was in jail only hours. She should have gone to jail for several months or or do Rehab, but it should have been HER choice. Enforced Rehab does no good.

I would want the "Rehab" program explained out in detail, what's expected (so they know it's no walk in the park, it's not art therapy and a spa!) and they must pay for Rehab themselves!

MyAlcoholicExSays said...

I was married to an alcoholic for 8 yrs, with him for 11.5 - walked out on him this summer.

He had 4 DUIs and did 2 3-month stints in jail. He was on probation for 4 yrs and had a breathalyzer installed in his car for a year.

Think ANY of this remotely deterred him? He's 46 and in end-stage. Still driving.

Anonymous said...

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Richard DellaFera said...

Being on the Top 40 blogs that are against drunk driving is such an honor. And I hope others will try to do the same and spread awareness about the consequences of driving under the influence. Not only for their lives, but for other innocent drivers and passers-by. Keep it up!

Richard DellaFera