I don’t hate you. You may not believe it, but I don’t. You may hate me for the things I have to do to you, but it’s almost never personal. Almost. Last week I made light of the fact that my patrol car was struck by an allegedly drunk driver. I can laugh about it and make jokes about it because I walked away uninjured. In fact, I can use it to get people thinking about drinking and driving and bring some education into it. However, it also is a reminder of how lucky I was then and of how unlucky I was a few years ago.
Several years ago, when my daughter was barely a month old, I was working at the Isla Vista Foot Patrol office on Pardall Road. I had just finished the day shift and at about 6 p.m. I was heading out to my car parked on Pardall in front of the I.V. Bookstore. It’s about a hundred-foot stretch that I’ve walked about fifty thousand times before. This time, as I crossed the street, a driver pulled out of a parking lot and accelerated right into me. I remember hitting the windshield and then being thrown back onto the street. I got up fairly quickly and the young woman driving was asking if I was okay. I thought I was and paused as officers and deputies came out to see what the commotion was about.
The young woman had just turned 21 years old and was out having a sandwich and a drink with friends. She was very pleasant, and to this day I believe she is a really nice person. However, even the nicest people make mistakes, and sometimes there are consequences.
After she tested at .08 percent on the breath test, she spent some time in jail and had a DUI charge she was forced to deal with — insurance, fines, license suspensions and more. For me, I had three months of back injuries to the extent that I could not hold my brand new baby girl without pain. Yet even with all of that, I consider myself pretty lucky. I don’t know what happened to the young woman after the accident. I’d like to think she learned to make better choices in that area of her life. She seemed very nice, and I hope she is doing well.
I was charged with a DUI (driving under the influence), but I only blew a .07 percent on the breath test. Don’t you have to be at .08 percent to be DUI?
There is actually more to the DUI than just how much alcohol is in your blood. In California, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at .08 percent or higher, you are automatically considered DUI. However, even if you are below that level, you can still be arrested and charged. This is because you are being charged on the fact that the alcohol, no matter how little, is affecting your ability to drive your car. Some people with a .05 percent BAC, or even just a .04 percent BAC, can be so impaired they have a hard time focusing and driving straight. When the police stop you, the tests are designed to see how your balance and ability to concentrate are affected. We are all affected by alcohol and drugs differently. So if you can’t walk a straight line or follow basic directions because of even just a little amount of alcohol, you are still DUI and could get arrested. The only safe way to be sure is to not drink and drive at all.
I have a prescription for medication I take daily. Can I get in trouble for driving while taking it?
Every medication is different and has a different effect on you. The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether the medication can affect your driving. Also, check the bottle. If it says, “Do not operate heavy machinery,” I would not recommend driving a fork lift or a car. Even if your doctor says it’s okay and the bottle has no warnings, use your best judgment. If it makes you feel dizzy, tired or has any adverse effects, talk to your doctor and don’t drive. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Also, be aware that some over-the-counter medications, such as NyQuil, have alcohol in them. So even if you are just taking cold medications, be sure to read the label and use caution. They can affect your ability to drive and are not a good defense if you get arrested for DUI. Not to beat a dead horse, whatever the heck that means, but use your common sense and err on the side of caution. If you are taking medication, try not to drive. And leave the poor horse alone.
As the weather warms up for spring, more and more people will be out and about on Friday and Saturday nights in Isla Vista. Please be cautious when walking or driving around. All too often we see the results of DUI accidents and no one walks away happy. So if you do drink, don’t drive. And if you drive, don’t drink. Enjoy Isla Vista for what it is and have a safe weekend by making some good choices. Good choice: walking to parties in I.V. Bad choice: participating in a live-action game of Angry Birds by launching a chicken at a police car. No, seriously; don’t.
Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the Po-Po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you, Question Authority! E-mail me anytime at QA@police.ucsb.edu or call UCSB PD at 893-3446.