Monday, November 13, 2006

Getting drunk drivers off the road.

My stepbrother was killed by a drunk driver and his mother never recovered. A dear friend in Winston-Salem received a call one Thanksgiving afternoon that his son had been killed on the road minutes earlier by a drunk driver. This one really hits home for me.

Extracts from
Meet the nation’s biggest buzz-kill
Lynnwood, Wash., cop excels at spotting drivers under the influence

by John Larson for

Police Officer Mark Brinkman is an expert in spotting people driving under the influence. In fact, he's so good, while most police arrest 20 drunk drivers a year, a few years back he arrested 100. And then the next year he caught 200. He may be the best buzz-killer in the land.

"The rumor among the officers was that he would crack his window about an inch open, and he claimed that he could smell the drunk drivers driving past us," says former Junior Sheriff Josh Hines. "And a car would go past us and he would just whip a U-turn and nine times out of 10 it was a drunk driver."

Sixteen years ago Brinkman saw two teenagers run a stop sign, and he let it slide. Minutes later, on a rural road, the teenage driver — drunk — flipped the car, and soon the passenger lay dying in Brinkman's arms.

"So I went home that night with this girl's blood on my uniform, knowing later that had I stopped her, I would have arrested the driver for a DUI and that girl would have lived and graduated from high school and had a life," says Brinkman. "I don't know [if it's] so much as guilt. It's just the one thing in my 20 years of law enforcement that still sticks with me, something that is just kind of always there."

Up to 20,000 Americans die every year at the hands of drunk drivers, more than all crimes combined. That's a fact lost on most whom Brinkman books each night.

"The world will be a better place for eight hours with me in here, let me tell you," said one of Brinkman's suspects who recently spent some time in jail.

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At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Sylvia said...

This is a timely message, with the holidays just around the corner and all. This guy is a good example of one person really making a difference.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

We were having a discussion about exactly this problem at work on Friday. One of the Australian women and I both commented on how things have changed since when we first learned to drive, and since the big (graphic, in many cases) campaigns against drinking and driving. It has now become normal behaviour to take away the keys of a drunk friend who insists that s/he can drive, or to have a 'designated driver' who will not drink when going to a party, and so on. When that kind of thing started being suggested, it was kind of uncool. Now it isn't.

Education has really worked for this one. Of course it is still a problem, but attitudes really have changed.

(Not that this is any consolation to the people who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers, but changes ARE happening. Education IS working.)


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