Drunk driving: Don’t risk it

Daniel Vasilchuk

“Don’t drink and drive.” You must have heard this a million times already. Still, it is vital that it continues to be publicized.

VIDEO: Students discuss drinking and driving.

Many lives are endangered because of drunk driving each year in California and nationwide.

To deal with drunk drivers, the California Highway Patrol and the Sacramento Police Department set up sobriety checkpoints.

At the sobriety checkpoints, police officers stop every driver. Their goal is to find drivers who are under the influence of alcohol.

In addition to helping put drunk drivers behind bars, the checkpoints educate people about driving drunk.

Sacramento police Sgt. David Hargadon said there are usually 400 to 1,000 drivers who are pulled over at each checkpoint.

“Every one of those drivers gets information handed to them about driving under the influence, and they also get a business card that refers them to a website called every37.com,” Hargadon said.

Every37.com is a website that provides links to stories, videos and radio podcasts that are meant to help decrease the number of DUI-related accidents in Sacramento.

Silas Miers, program specialist in law enforcement for California’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said even though sobriety checkpoints may yield a low number of arrests overall, it is still worth setting the checkpoints up.

“Every time an officer takes a (drunk) driver off the road, that person had the potential to get into a crash and kill somebody,” Miers said.

Another way of catching drunk drivers is a CHP strike-force patrol.

This type of patrol involves saturating a city area with officers who are specifically targeting drunk drivers.

More recently, in an eight-hour period Oct. 23, a concentrated strike-force patrol in central and south Sacramento caught 60 alleged drunk drivers.

“We all see the harm and devastation that driving under the influence can cause and can have on individuals and families,” said Sacramento police Officer Konrad Von Schoech. “And despite that, people still choose to drink and drive.”

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety’s “California Traffic Safety Report Card,” drunk driver arrests went up 5.4 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Hargadon said that this increase is because more officers are being educated in sobriety testing.

In light of increased police efforts to catch drunk drivers, driving impaired is not only a dangerous decision, it’s a bad idea.

“We’re doing everything we can to educate people, yet every night we continue to make arrests,” Hargadon said.

According to an Oct. 23 report by the Sacramento Police Department, drunk drivers caused more than 11,000 deaths nationwide in 2008.

More than 1,000 people died because of these drivers in California alone.

Drunk drivers not only hurt others, they hurt themselves.

Loss of license, jail time, probation, car impoundment, and a hefty fee upwards of $7,000 are all possible consequences of being arrested for drunk driving.

If the other driver dies, the DUI becomes a felony charge and the drunk driver might face several years to life in prison.

Having a conviction on a driving record will not stand well with most reputable workplaces.

“You have your entire future ahead of you,” Miers said. “If you have a DUI on your record, all that stuff stays there for a long time (and) people look at it.”

So if you are thinking of going out and drinking, please remember to call a cab, designate a sober driver or call Sacramento State’s Safe Rides at (916) 278-8294.

Do not drive drunk – it might end up costing you a lifetime of sorrow and guilt.

[email protected]