Drinking and driving, not worth the risk

  • Published
  • By Capt. Brian Green
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing Legal Office
Recently, I was awakened by a 5 a.m. phone call. Unfortunatly, the subject was all too predictable. 

“Sir, this is a notification from security forces. Senior Airman Snuffy has been picked up for DUI after crashing his car downtown. We’re awaiting further details.” Most of the time those details include the fact that the intoxicated Airman is being held in the county jail on bond. Too frequently, on-call judge advocate generals hear about DUI arrests of junior enlisted Airmen, NCOs and the occasional officer or civilian contractors. 

If the case is handled by the military, JAGs advise commanders on appropriate disciplinary action, which can range from a letter of reprimand to a full court-martial, depending on the severity of the incident. In the absence of civilian prosecution, the typical military disciplinary action will be an Article 15. Punishment may include a reduction in rank, significant pay forfeitures, extended duty, travel restrictions and a reprimand (depending on the facts of each case). If your offense caused injury, you may find yourself in a court-martial, subject to confinement and a punitive discharge from the Air Force. Even if you do not receive a punitive discharge for drunk driving, it can still permanently end your Air Force career by providing the basis for an involuntary administrative separation action. 

Driving drunk hurts both your finances and your career. The Air Force, your wing leaders and the local community take drunk driving very seriously because it endangers our people and threatens the mission. If you drive drunk, you will be caught, and when you are caught, you will face serious discipline for your actions. 

Insurance companies don’t look kindly on DUIs, either. Drunk driving astronomically increases the risk of a car accident, so if you’re convicted of it, your premium will rise accordingly and you may lose your policy altogether. For example, a standard six-month policy for a 24-year old male driving a sports car might cost $870. If that individual has just one DUI, the policy cost for the same period could go up to $3,600. A standard six-month policy for a 54-year old male driving a four-door sedan likewise could go from $431 to $2,126. 

Most importantly, drunk driving endangers your life, the life of every passenger in your car and the life of every motorist on the highway. Alcohol causes disorientation, slows reaction time, and leads to thousands of accidents each year. 

To ensure safety and avoid the disciplinary consequences of DUI, it is critical that we exercise personal responsibility. Use “0-0-1-3” as a guideline for responsible drinking: don't exceed one drink per hour and three drinks per night; don’'t drink if you’re under 21, and above all, do not drive under the influence of alcohol. 

Also, look out for your fellow Airmen. Offer to be a designated driver, and refrain from drinking alcohol so you can get your friends safely home from the bar or party. If you see someone drinking excessively, encourage him or her to stop. If you’re drunk and alone away from home, don’t try to make it back on your own. Call a cab, or get a free ride from a member of Airmen Against Drunk Driving. You’ll save yourself, your loved ones and the Air Force-from a lot of pain.