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Planning a ride is planning for life

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- How do you write an article on smart choices regarding drunk driving without it reading like every other article you've ever read on the subject?

You could quote statistics such as how many vehicle accidents are alcohol related, or the number of alcohol-related deaths happened last year, but chances are no one will pay attention to the numbers.

Maybe you show some unsightly pictures and tell horror stories of people's lives that have been ripped apart by a drunk driver, or a family that lost their only son because he had one too many before driving home.

Of course, that's them, the other person, someone far away that you've never met. It really has no bearing on your life, right? Wrong! Sadly, the only way most people realize the dangers of driving under the influence is by crashing their vehicle, losing their driving privileges, license or job because of a DUI charge, or injuring or killing someone.

I say under the influence, because to say "drunk driving" is misleading. It's dangerous to drive well before you reach the point you would be considered "drunk." This scenario has happened to many of us. You're at a party, everyone's having a good time and you've had a few drinks. You're not plastered; you're just a little buzzed. You head out to your car to drive home and pause... you know you've had a few, but you "feel" good enough to drive.

You "test" yourself before getting in the car. Maybe you stand on one leg or recite the alphabet to yourself. You'd rather have someone drive you, but there's no one around, so you get in and drive home.

You'll do this despite every article, speech and briefing you've ever heard, despite the advice to call someone or to have a plan and bring a designated driver. After all, you're responsible. When you go out, tie a few on and get toasted, you bring a DD - but not when you're just going out and having a few with your friends. The big question here is, "Why?"

Some people think they don't have to worry if they're just drinking beer, well - watch out, here comes one of those boring statistics - beer is the drink of choice in most cases of heavy drinking and drunk driving. Alcohol-related fatalities are caused primarily by the consumption of beer (80 percent) followed by liquor or wine at 20 percent. Finally, beer is the drink most commonly consumed by people stopped for alcohol-impaired driving or involved in alcohol-related crashes.

Regardless of what you're drinking, when you're drinking or where you're drinking, you should always have a plan. Bring a DD or take a cab. Set up a support network for yourself and others you know (it may sound corny, but it's better than the alternative) by making sure your friends know you're willing to be called out of bed in the middle of the night to help them in a pinch (and explain that you'd expect the same from them.)

On Friday, when the boss is harping on not driving drunk and tells you to call someone you work with, volunteer to be the one for people to call. Tell people that they really can call you. You probably think calling someone you don't know that well isn't an option, but it is. I'm not a particularly patient person, but I've been on the receiving end of one of those calls and honestly did not mind picking up someone who really needed it. I also didn't mind the lunch they bought me later that week!

So next time you're at your car, trying to decide if you're ok to drive, thinking that it's such an inconvenience (or worse, embarrassing) to call someone, compare those feelings with the inconvenience of having to get a ride to work because your driving privileges were taken away for a year, or trying to live with yourself after you injure or kill someone.

Have a plan, take a cab, bring a DD, take the number to Airmen Against Drunk Driving with you, or whatever you need to do to keep from getting behind the wheel and needlessly endangering yourself and others.

AADD: 659 - AADD (2233)
Happy Cab: 339-0100