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Airmen don't let Airmen drink and drive

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jessica Q. Hill
  • 179AW
Lt. John J. Maxey, Norwalk Post Commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and a former 179 Airlift Wing member, was on base Saturday, Dec. 11, to remind unit members that the decision to drive impaired is never a wise one.
The presentations given by Maxey throughout the day were coordinated though the Norwalk OSHP and the Chief's council at the 179AW. "It's built for the wing and for you," Command Chief Master Sgt. Gregory L. Eyster told the audience.
With the recent tragedies that have impacted members of the 179AW and 200 RED HORSE and the current holiday party season underway, members were reminded that the decision to drive after drinking even a small amount of alcohol can be a disastrous one. "You can be impaired and not test over the legal limit," Maxey shared.
In the past year local unit members have been involved with four alcohol related automobile accidents, three of which resulted in fatalities. If members choose to drink and drink Maxey told them, "the only thing that makes you different than those people [who were responsible for the accidents] is the right situation. They were not bad people, they just made bad decisions."
Maxey pointed out that the chances of being involved in an alcohol related accident on local roadways is more likely than the risk of being seriously injured while on a deployment. In the local OSHP district there were 17 impaired driving related traffic deaths. In 2010 so far there have been 20 such deaths and more accidents are currently under investigation, so the number is likely to rise.
In the state of Ohio since 2007 the number of people killed in Operating a Vehicle Impaired (OVI) is equal to the number of members currently assigned to the 179AW. Over the past 15 years in Ohio, the number of people killed in OVI crashes equals half of the entire Ohio Air National Guard.
Many people are quick to blame OVI problems on the young due to their inexperience with driving and legally drinking. Statistics however tell a different story. People in the 26 to 55 year age group are the most likely to be at fault in an OVI incident, according to 2009 Ohio Traffic Safety Office statistics. Even though this is the highest group, Maxey was quick to point out that OVI is not specific to any age, race, gender or ethnicity. "If you drink and drive, you are taking a chance that you just do not need to take," he stated.
Like police officers, military members are often seen by the public as heroes. When a military member makes an erroneous decision, such as drinking and driving, the public sees this as a type of fall from grace. "You're decisions are watched closely by others," Maxey reminded members.
In addition to being scrutinized by the public and casting a negative light on the unit, the consequences of being arrested for OVI include being handcuffed and searched, having the vehicle towed and impounded at the driver's expense, being transported in a caged police car to a OSHP post, submitting either willingly or by force to a blood alcohol test, being incarcerated and possibly being required to post bond. Maxey noted that these are the best possible outcome to an OVI incident. "Anyone in alcohol related crashes wishes this would happen to them," he added.
The long term effects of an OVI arrest can range from a minimum 90-day license suspension and 3-day jail term to a felony charge and up to a year in prison from repeat offenses. Maxey pointed out that any finding of alcohol will automatically elevate any vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide charge into an aggravated change, which adds years onto the sentence.
Maxey told members that the best thing they could do is to stop friends and family from drinking and driving. "Impaired decisions are poor decisions," he stated. "If you don't get involved, I guarantee a tragedy will occur."
To report an OVI members are encouraged to call 911 from a cell phone. Other hot lines that can be used are 1-800-GRAB-DUI and 1-877-7PATROL.
Members who are unable to safely drive home during a Unit Training Assembly weekend can call the base Fire Department at 419-520-6392 to use the Arrive Alive program. This will enable the member to be taken to their home or hotel safely from a bar, party or other place of drinking.
In closing Maxey encouraged members, "We fight everyday for freedom of choice. Let's make the right one."
According to posters produced by the Chiefs' Council, "In combat or at home we look out for one another. Airmen don't let Airmen drink and drive."