Alaska e-Post online

DUIs costly, preventable

PAO staff report

Driving under the influence can be costly. The Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles estimates a first-offense DUI costs more than $22,000.Alcohol affects your brain. Drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses and even blackouts.

This is what makes drinking and driving so dangerous. There is no excuse for driving under the influence of alcohol; it’s 100 percent avoidable.

Alcohol-related traffic deaths across the nation jumped to the highest level since 1992, while traffic fatalities remained virtually unchanged last year, according to preliminary statistics released May 31 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In 2006, alcohol-related fatalities rose to 17,941, a 2.4 percent increase from 17,525 in 2005, according to NHTSA. Nationwide, road deaths dropped to 43,300 in 2006 from 43,443 in 2005 — a 0.3 percent decline.

Alcohol-related deaths constituted approximately 41 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Fortunately, there hasn’t been a single fatal DUI case at either fort Richardson or Wainwright since September 2005. But whether an accident is fatal or not, the result of a DUI on your record can be quite expensive.

In either case, you stand to lose a lot.

Driving under the influence of alcohol will be much more costly than finding an alternate way of getting home after a night of drinking alcohol. For instance, to take a taxi cab from downtown Anchorage to Fort Richardson would cost a Soldier about $25; from Fairbanks to Fort Wainwright about $20. That’s a small price to pay concerning the alterative.

The alternative for Soldiers could lead to severe punishment under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. A DUI for a Soldier could result in a bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of pay and allowances, reduction to E-1 and even confinement. Of course, the individual’s unit commander will decide the disposition based on the individual facts and circumstance of the case.

To compound matters more, the garrison commander, according to Army Regulation 190-5, the post commander may, for cause, administratively suspend or revoke on-post driving privileges.  This suspension or revocation applies to all active-duty military personnel, family members, military retirees, Department of Defense civilian personnel and others with installation command driving privileges, regardless of the geographic location of an intoxicated driving incident.

Typically, on-post driving privileges are suspended for no less than 90 days and revocations no less than one year. The regulation also states any officer or noncommissioned officer:

What can a letter of reprimand mean for you? It can make you noncompetitive for promotion, for starters, but it can also limit a Soldier’s chance of re-enlisting.

If convicted off post, the matter can become much more immediately financially severe.

According to the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles’ driving manual, “if you operate a motor vehicle with a breath or blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, by law you are presumed to be driving under the influence.

“If, after being arrested for DUI, you refuse to take a chemical test of your breath, or your breath test results are 0.08 or more, your driver’s license, privilege to drive or your privilege to obtain a license will be revoked by the Division of Motor Vehicles. This revocation will occur even if the criminal charge of DUI or refusal is dismissed, or you are found not guilty in court.”

And this is only the “tip of the iceberg.”

If you add in roughly $1,500 in court fines, $300 for vehicle impound fees, about $200 for license reinstatement fee and $150 for driver’s education courses, you’re looking at — at least — $2,000. This doesn’t include higher automobile insurance premiums and possible attorney fees.

Those convicted of DUI will also have 10 points assessed to their Alaska driving records. Accumulating 12 points in one year or 18 points in two years requires a mandatory suspension or revocation of the driving privilege, regardless of the hardships involved.

The Alaska DMV driving manual estimates the average cost of your first DUI at more than $22,000. This is the alternative a $20 to $40 taxi ride.

It’s a matter of choice, spend $20 and save a life — perhaps your own — or spend the next couple of years pay more than $22,000 for a foolish, costly mistake.