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During National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, we recommit ourselves to the fight against impaired driving, specifically against drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 29 people in the United States die every day in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes—that's one person every 50 minutes in 2016. Drunk-driving fatalities have fallen by a third in the last three decades; however, drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year. In 2010, the most recent year for which cost data is available, these deaths and damages contributed to a cost of $44 billion per year.

Alcohol is a substance that reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential to operating a vehicle safely.

As alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase. Alcohol is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. Then it passes into the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is metabolized by the liver. Alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC. At a BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood (g/dL), crash risk increases exponentially. Because of this risk, it’s illegal in all 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. However, even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability. In 2016, there were 2,017 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where drivers had lower alcohol levels (BACs of .01 to .07 g/dL).

The Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentration:

BAC .02

Some loss of judgment; relaxation, slight body warmth and altered mood. Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target) and decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention).

BAC .05

Exaggerated behavior, may have loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, usually good feeling, lowered alertness and release of inhibition. Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering and reduced response to emergency driving situations.

BAC .08

Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning and memory are impaired. Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search) and impaired perception.

BAC .10

Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking. Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately.

BAC .15

Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol) and major loss of balance. Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing.

Driving after drinking is deadly. Yet it still continues to happen. If you drive while impaired, you could get arrested, or worse, be involved in a traffic crash that causes serious injury or death.

Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers (with blood alcohol concentrations [BACs] of .08 of higher). In 2016, there were 10,497 people killed in these preventable crashes. In fact, on average over the 10-year period from 2006-2016, more than 10,000 people died every year in drunk-driving crashes.

Men are more likely than women to be driving drunk in fatal crashes. In 2016, 21 percent of males were drunk in these crashes, compared to 14 percent for females.

Take steps to prevent drunk driving:

If you will be drinking, don’t plan to drive. Plan your safe ride home before you start the party. Designate a sober driver ahead of time.

If you drink, do not drive for any reason. Call a Rideshare (UBER/LYFT etc), taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, use public transportation, etc. Download NHTSA’s SaferRide app from Google Play or the iTunes Store which helps you identify your location and call a taxi or friend to pick you up.

NAS Lemoore is now allowing UBER/LYFT drivers on mainside with proper vetting through Pass and ID. If your driver can’t get on base yet, simply exit at Pass and ID and walk-on. If you can’t safely walk-on, call a friend to pick you up at Pass and ID.

If you had a plan for a designated driver and that person started drinking – change the plan! Come up with a new strategy to get home safely.

If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them arrange a sober ride home.

If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement. Your actions could help save someone’s life.

Driving a vehicle while impaired is a dangerous crime. Tough enforcement of drunk-driving laws has been a major factor in reducing alcohol-impaired-driving deaths since the 1980s. Charges range from misdemeanors to felony offenses, and penalties for impaired driving can include driver’s license revocation, fines, and jail time. It’s also extremely expensive. A first-time offense can cost the driver upwards of $10,000 in fines and legal fees.

At NAS Lemoore, getting caught driving under such circumstances will result in an automatic 1-year suspension of driving privileges, not to mention possible NJP, possible reduction in rank and pay, and restriction. It’s a long walk from the barment lot – ask a shipmate that has to make that journey every day.

NAS Lemoore lost a shipmate this year due to an impaired driver – it was no fault of the Sailor at all – he was run-down from behind by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle. Our prayers are always with his family and his shipmates. Drunk Driving Kills!

It’s simply not worth risking your career, your life and the lives of others!

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All my best,

Captain David James

Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Lemoore

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