Viewpoint: Powerful demonstration shows consequences of impaired driving

Posted at 9:17 PM on Sep 1, 2017



I don’t always drink wine at 7 a.m., but when I do it’s for a great cause.

Friday morning I joined a group of volunteers and law enforcement officers in producing a public service announcement to help explain the dangers of drinking and driving. Our friends at WAME FM Radio were instrumental in this effort, which was timely given the long Labor Day weekend.

The radio station was filled with representatives of the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Darren Campbell, along with N.C. Highway Patrol state troopers, Iredell County EMS personnel, representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Lewis Taxi Service.

Sheriff’s Capt. Bill Hamby explained the demonstration to me and the other three participants. We were tasked with consuming two glasses of alcohol every half hour. State Trooper Brett Marr, along with Hamby, supervised the controlled drinking.

The other volunteers were WAME’s Chillbillies: David Hamm (who drank craft beer), Matt Ashbrenner (who drank a mixed rum drink), and Brian Niblock (who drank domestic beer).

Hamby directed us to have a good time and try to simulate a night out on the town.

We started the morning by taking a baseline breathalyzer test, during which we all blew a 0.0.

A few drinks into the demonstration, Ashbrenner and Niblock blew a 0.01, but Hamm and I blew 0.06. At that point, we were considered to be impaired enough to warrant a field sobriety test.

Sgt. Ryan Sherill, Lt. Chris Stone and Lt. Matt Burleyson assisted with the test.

Hamm and I were instructed to stand on one leg, while lifting the other, toe pointed, and count by “one-thousands.” Then we were instructed to perform the heel-toe line test.

Based on our ability (or inability) to complete these tasks, Hamm was declared a positive arrest. My arrest, on the other hand, by some miracle, was deemed questionable.

I learned a lot from this demonstration. I learned that getting convicted of impaired driving in a courtroom depends mostly on what happens outside of it, such as the sobriety test results. I also learned that you can be arrested with a blood-alcohol content of less than 0.08 based on your reaction to the alcohol, the road-side test, a blood test and a number of other factors.

We learned some uniquely interesting facts as well. For example, you can get a DUI on a lawn mower. You cannot get a DUI on a horse, but you can get a DUI on a mule. We also learned about the different effects alcohol has on men and women, and the reaction of a body in a car during the first second of a fatal crash.

Cathy Hocking providing a sobering testimony about her teenage daughters, who were killed by a drunken driver in Arizona earlier this year. She exhibited such strength in telling her story, and her message about alcohol responsibility was clear. It was evident that her relationship with her daughters was strong in life, and will remain so even in after their tragic deaths. Her story brought home the horrible consequences of impaired driving to everyone who heard her speak.

The volunteers also demonstrated what impaired driving looks like by trying to maneuver a golf cart through an obstacle course. Not many of the cones were still standing when we were done.

As a millennial, I felt a heavy truth on my heart when the demonstration was over. All of us, from time to time, believe that we’re invincible. After downing only a few drinks, we think we’re fine and we can make it home.

The truth is that that is not always the case.

Young adults are the prime age group to make these mistakes. We’re still young, still experiencing what it means to be drunk, and learning what our limits are.

The reality is that drinking and driving is dangerous and against the law. Statesville, like other cities, has downtown events, evening performances at restaurants, and festivals. After all of the fun has ended, each person who has consumed alcohol has an important decision to make.

The next time that you find yourself in that situation, have a plan. Know your limits. Know when you can no longer safely get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Have a designated driver, call a friend or call a taxi.

Please do not drive while you are impaired. It’s not worth it.

Haley Jones is a writer for

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