Georgia Player’s DUI Could Have Cost More than a Game

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The suspended football player should not get his license back until he installs an ignition interlock or in-car breathalyzer.

When my daughter, a Decatur High School graduate, attended orientation at the University of Georgia this summer, the college emphasized — repeatedly — the dangers of drinking.

Apparently the football players weren’t paying attention.

According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story, one of the Bulldogs’ key defensive players is going to miss at least the next two football games because he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Driving while intoxicated is bad enough, but the story by Tim Tucker and Chip Towers reports that Cornelius Washington was clocked at driving 92 mph in a 55-mph zone when Commerce police stopped him about 20 miles north of Athens.

What appalls me most about this story is that he reportedly feels sick that he let his team down. As if missing a couple of games is the real tragedy here. Boo-hoo.

No, Mr. Washington and Coach Mark Richt, that’s not the tragedy here. This player’s behavior could have killed someone, up to and including himself and the three passengers in his car, including the 20-year-old arrested for underage consumption of alcohol.

Being dead means you miss all the rest of the season, Mr. Washington. Consider the fate of another college athlete from Georgia over the weekend, also in his junior year.

Matthew Benjamin Dyas, 20, played golf for the University of West Georgia and was riding a motorcycle outside the Carrollton college’s football stadium Saturday. A car driven by an Allenhurst woman struck and killed him. She was arrested on a charge of first-degree vehicular homicide and DUI, according to the Carrollton Times-Georgian. Dyas was from Acworth and majoring in finance.

Guess which story was on the front of the AJC sports section?

Almost daily I see the mug shots of people in DeKalb County who have been arrested and booked for drunk driving. We depend so much on automobiles to get around this big town, we completely forget how dangerous they can be.

According to a new CDC Vital Signs report, adults drank too much and got behind the wheel about 112 million times in 2010. Men were responsible for four out of every five drunk driving episodes, and young men — 21 to 34 — were responsible for about a third of all drunk driving episodes.

At Mr. Washington’s blood alcohol level, reported at 0.12, he would have had a markedly slower reaction time, difficulty braking and staying in lane. All while driving a a 4,000 pounds at 92 mph.

Most drunk drivers have driven while drunk 87 times before they are first arrested, according to the 1995 National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behavior cited by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Here are some other sobering statistics:

One in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime. – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
This year, 10,839 people will die in drunk-driving crashes – one every 50 minutes. – 2008 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment, NHTSA
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and one out of three of those is alcohol related. – NHTSA
High school students who use alcohol or other substances are five times more likely to drop out of school or believe good grades are not important.
One in five teens binge drink. Only one in 100 parents believes his or her teen binge drinks.
Among all Georgia high school students, 37.7 percent reported current alcohol use and 19 percent reported binge drinking in the past 30 days, according to the CDC.
When you drink too much and get behind the wheel of a car, you’re aiming a loaded gun at strangers, and maybe your own head. You may make it home unscathed, but you’re playing a game of Russian Roulette with a 5,000-pound hunk of metal hurtling down the road at highway speed.

Suspension from a few games? Mr. Washington’s driver’s license should be suspended and he should have to undergo mandatory substance abuse counseling, including spending an hour with the family member of someone who died in a drunk driving accident.

As a condition of getting his license back, he should be required to install an ignition interlock or in-car breathalyzer that would prevent him from driving a vehicle while intoxicated.

The CDC Vital Signs report released this week says requiring such car devices for all convicted drunk drivers is a proven, effective strategy to prevent drunk driving.

Georgia law allows drivers to apply for ignition interlocks a year after losing their license after their second DUI. According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, to get the interlock, the driver must prove they’ve completed a “DUI alcohol or drug risk reduction program, clinical evaluation, enrollment in treatment or completion of treatment if required by evaluation and installation of an interlock device.”

At the end of driving with a “six-month ignition interlock device limited-driving permit,” the driver may apply to get their driver’s license reinstated.

Second conviction? Why not first conviction? That’s what MADD National President Jan Withers advocates.

“MADD calls on states to strengthen their existing interlock laws by requiring all first-time convicted drunk driving offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater to have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicle,” said Withers in a MADD press release.

I don’t want drunk drivers aiming their cars at me, my children or anybody else. Do you?

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