Rarely am I able to pass through any of the base gates without my eyes being drawn to the status board showing the latest driving under the influence or alcohol related incident. Often the ‘days counter’ does not get above 30 days before another Airman is highlighted for failing to follow the law. It is hard to imagine any Airman that has not heard the message to not drink and drive, to be a good wingman or one that does not know that DUI laws exist. So why do Airmen continue to fall short?
Maybe some didn’t know they were drunk believing they knew their limits, thinking they were safe enough to drive. Others may have thought they won’t get caught, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that over 1.41 million drivers were arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Maybe some didn’t think the personal risk to themselves or others was significant. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 27 people die every day in America due to drunk driving crashes.
The number of circumstances or reasons why our Airmen fall short are as numerous and unique as there are DUI cases. However, a vast majority of our Airmen have embraced the “No DUI” message, understand the risks and are aware of the consequences of driving drunk.
The 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s focus is on those who are at risk to make a bad decision. We have developed a multi-pronged campaign to combat DUIs focusing on three key themes: developing and executing a plan, emphasizing the negative impacts from drinking and driving and an in-your-face awareness campaign.
First and foremost, we are spending time developing and executing a plan. Airmen put themselves in situations where they have no plan to safely get home after drinking, or they fail to follow their existing plan. To help, the squadron booster club worked with a local cab company to provide free rides home for our Airmen. We issued Airmen a DUI card that has all the necessary information to get home safely, even if he has nothing but the card. When called, the cab company will provide the ride and send the booster club an invoice. We also put squadron phone numbers and the base Airman Against Drunk Driving info on the card.
Second, we hosted the Tucson Police Department and Mothers Against Drunk Driving representatives to come in and talk with our Airmen. The TPD officers described how the court process significantly impacts those arrested in Tucson for a DUI. This includes substantial lawyer and court fees, possible installation of vehicle interlock systems, a criminal record and jail time. A MADD representative described how a drunk driver altered her life. She stressed that a drunk driver’s poor decision caused others life-changing results.
Lately, we have initiated an aggressive in-your-face awareness campaign. Courtesy of the 563rd Rescue Group, we acquired and placed a wrecked car in our parking lot for all to see. It has a large sign attached to it that simply says “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed.” The visual aid provides an eye-opening experience when you look at the massive damage done to the car. Additionally, we’ve talked about this subject with our Airmen at every opportunity to include commander’s calls, roll calls and individual counseling sessions.
Leaders at every level must continue emphasizing that it will take constant, relentless awareness and solid decision making to lower DUIs. Whether an Airman receives a DUI on or off base, the negative impacts to their career are significant and life altering. We need to continue challenging our Airmen to develop and execute plans when they decide to drink. While we haven’t cornered the market on good ideas, our goal is about solving a problem and continuing to emphasize the need make smart decisions.