Friday, May 25, 2012
The long Memorial Day weekend means party time for many and the risk of driving while impaired for some. The California Highway Patrol says tickets -- and potential tragedy -- can easily be avoided with a little education and planning.
Art Athans is with the CHP.
“As a Highway Patrol officer I can tell you that the designated driver is not the least drunk person in the group at the end of the festivities, we see that far too often,” he said. “The designated driver has got to be someone who abstains completely for that event," he added.
A blood alcohol level of .08 means instant jail time for drivers. Anyone stopped because of signs of impairment will also go to jail, regardless of how much they drank, Athans said. One drink raises blood alcohol level by .02 percent, whether it's a beer, glass of wine, liquor shot or cocktail. But even that much can impair the judgment of a designated driver.
"After 22 years on the CHP, nearly everyone I arrested for DUI thought they were okay to drive. So that's why the designated driver should not have anything to drink at all," Athans said.
Last Memorial Day, 129 DUI arrests were made in San Diego County.
In addition, 20 percent of injury crashes involve reports of distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
And those sitting in their cars on the shoulder of the road because of a breakdown can be sitting ducks for distracted, or drunk, drivers who may veer off the freeway. Yet many stay in their car with a false sense of security because it’s like a personal cocoon with climate control, music and phone, Athans said.
"Sitting on the freeway with a flat tire is not a good idea. If you can limp it off the freeway, by all means, do that. If your car breaks down and you can't move it, get out of your car, get up the embankment and make your calls for help from there. Again, don't sit in your car," he added.
The only exception is when drivers are stranded in lanes or the median with their emergency flashers switched on as their only protection.
"If you can't find an embankment to get away from your car, then stay in your car with your seat belt on," Athans said.
The CHP wants all drivers to slow down, buckle up, drive with two hands on the wheel, and turn cell phones off while driving.