Take responsibility

In the classic style of the Reno News & Review taking hard stances on divisive topics like, “Say no to pedophilia,” “Road construction is a pain, relax” and “School’s in session, watch for kids,” the editorial staff would like to go out on a limb and say that it’s bad to drink and drive.

As we pointed out in this week’s feature story, “Arrested development,” the consequences of a first time DUI are serious: “Possible criminal punishments for first time offenders include two days to six months in jail, house arrest or community service; Nevada DUI School (alcohol counseling for up to a year, around $50 a week); fines ranging from $400 to $1,000 plus court costs; Nevada’s Victim Impact Panel ($35); and the possibility of having to install an ignition interlock device ($110-250 install, $65-110 monthly monitoring, $75-100 removal). Add to that increased insurance costs. A first DUI can easily cost $7,000.”

Even worse: People with impaired driving skills are more likely to kill innocent people than people without. Alcohol impairment is the primary factor in traffic fatalities.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing has a fact sheet regarding drunk driving, which can be found at www.popcenter.org/problems/drunk_driving. Its findings are sobering. Here are three selections from the document to illustrate (and these are not just opinions, there are significant endnotes and references to back this stuff up):

“Recent roadside surveys in the United States indicate that about 3 percent of drivers at any particular time are legally impaired. On weekend evenings, the number of drunk drivers rises significantly: About 8 percent of all drivers have blood alcohol concentrations greater than .05, and an additional 9 percent of drivers have had at least one drink, meaning that on weekend evenings, around 17 percent of all drivers are operating their vehicles under the influence of at least some alcohol.”

“Those who drink and drive at least twice per month account for about 90 percent of all drunk driving trips.”

“By some estimates, the average drunk driver will drive while impaired between 80 and 2,000 times for every time he is apprehended.” (This is mostly dependent on the enforcement abilities of local police jurisdictions.)

Think about those paragraphs in the context of “in 2008, there were 4,126 people booked into 911 Parr Boulevard jail on suspicion of DUI.”

There are options for the individual who plans ahead, but in the cities of Reno and Sparks, due to many of the cultural factors outlined in the CPOP report and others, we have a more severe problem than most of the country. We have a 24-hour culture that encourages drinking, particularly during driving-related special events and weekends. We have a sprawled city layout with poor bus service, even within the McCarran loop; and long distances make for expensive cab rides (until compared to the cost of a DUI). We have a relatively understaffed police department, which has many competing priorities, particularly when drunk driving is at its peak.

In Northern Nevada, it’s up to individuals to take responsibility for themselves, to make plans before drinking for a ride at the end of the night. Use designated drivers, know the bus hours and routes, save some money for a cab ride (and most cabs can take credit cards these days), have a loved one ready to get out of bed.

If you choose to drink alcohol, it’s up to you not to get behind the wheel.