Ability and Accountability By Richard Haddad, Prescott Valley, AZ email@example.com "[Children] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it." -- Two of my favorite quotes by Jim Henson
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Reporting a DUI Parent: Are we as brave as a 13-year-old girl?
Last week a Michigan man was arrested on drunken driving and child endangerment charges after his 13-year-old daughter called 911 from the backseat of the van he was driving.
According to police reports, the girl was frightened and pleaded with her father not to drive. Her father, Pawel Bozek, 39, was traveling on a major interstate highway reportedly bound for Florida and was oblivious to his daughter's call for help.
When he was arrested police found an opened 40-ounce bottle of alcohol in the vehicle and his blood alcohol level measured 0.223 percent, nearly three times the legal limit.
Richard Rondeau, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Southeast Michigan applauded the girl for her actions.
"Who is the more adult person in that van?" Rondeau said. "She was very brave for doing something like this."
How brave are we when it comes to reporting drunken drivers?
There is an ongoing debate over which is more effective in stopping drunk driving - education or stiffer penalties and enforcement.
Government and private action have been taken on both fronts, and still the problem grows.
We have legislation that allows police to impound vehicles for 30 days if a driver is stopped for a DUI violation; extreme DUI (blood alcohol content of .15 or above); aggravated DUI; or underage DUI. The law even allows impounding vehicles for driving on a revoked or suspended driver's license - a common cheat of repeat DUI offenders. And still the problem grows.
There are now new laws requiring mandatory interlock breathalyzer ignition systems for repeat offenders. Installing this technology prevents a person with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher from starting or driving a car. And still the problem grows.
While I'm glad to see tougher laws that crack down on what I consider one of the most irresponsible things a person can do, there is a more powerful, often untapped tool to stop drunk drivers that fits in the palm of our hand - a phone. Cell phones, bar and restaurant phones, pay phones - they can all save lives and reinstate true accountability if we are brave enough to use them.
People who drive under the influence of alcohol often try to convince others that reporting them to the police is unnecessary or unfair. They argue that it's unjust to place them in the same category as someone who discharges a gun or pulls a knife on a victim because their motives are not malicious. They often plead for leniency and cite how they are a respectable businessperson or a contributing member of society.
Innocent people die, families are destroyed and still, they don't get it.
Nationwide, more than half of drivers arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders, according to a 2003 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study. Even if they have lost their license, two-thirds of all drivers with suspended licenses still drive.
And drunken driving continues to be on the rise. The Transportation Department reported that alcohol-related deaths on U.S. roads rose to their highest level in 14 years in 2006.
The U.S. Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there is an alcohol-related traffic fatality every 30 minutes. This represents more than 17,000 people killed every year.
In our own backyard during 2007, the Prescott Police Department DUI taskforce made 14 percent more DUI arrests than 2006.
It breaks my heart when we have to print another headline about an innocent child or family member who is killed because someone lacked self-control.
Please join the voices of countless parents, spouses, children and friends who needlessly lost their loved ones because of an irresponsible, unnecessary decision.
It's time to speak up.
If you know or suspect someone is driving intoxicated in the Prescott area call (928) 445-3131. In Prescott Valley call (928) 772-9267.
There will be times when it could be extremely hard to make the call, especially if you are reporting a co-worker, a loved one, a friend or a father. But we can all be as brave as a 13-year-old girl.