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Learn to have a plan

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Peter Lex
  • 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron commander
There have been nine drinking and driving incidents in my squadron alone during the last year and two months. These incidents happened both on and off base, in Wyoming and Colorado, a few had wingmen with them, but most drivers were by themselves. There have also been additional incidents from other squadrons across the wing.

Unfortunately, these incidents happened and continue to happen even after we campaigned against drinking and driving.

The wing commander and group commanders have discussed drinking and driving in their commander's calls, and I have discussed it with each of my flights and staff members, since taking command and after every incident. My flight chiefs brief safety and discuss not drinking and driving to their Airmen prior to each break and weekend.

There's the Mighty Ninety Safe Ride Program where someone will pick you up and provide you a ride; no questions asked. So why do people continue to drink and drive? There is no single answer to this question. 

For me, it begins with the individual who is responsible to make the choice to not drink and drive. It is also up to the individual to be a good wingman, thus helping others make the responsible choice to not drink and drive.

Recently, I watched a couple anti-drinking and driving videos produced by the Wyoming Governor's Council on impaired driving that resonated with me due to their powerful images and words.

The first video, "Drunk Driving Kills," depicts a family driving in their minivan. Then a truck is shown swerving down the road in the oncoming opposite direction. As the truck approaches the minivan, it crosses into the minivan's lane and then both cars freeze.

This is an interesting moment because it allows the father driving the minivan and the operator of the truck to exit their vehicles, as time is suspended.  A conversation ensues between both drivers and the father notices something is off and asks the driver if he was drunk. The driver makes some reply to which the father points at the minivan and replies, "my family is in there." 

The vehicles briefly move closer to one another as if time is about to start again. Then the father ultimately states, "You've killed us, what have you done?" 

The drivers go back to their vehicles and time resumes. The video cuts to black just prior to the collision and in silence just shows the words, "When will we learn? Drunk driving kills." 

This video resonates with me because I am a father who drives a minivan with my wife and three kids inside. This could be my family and me out driving and not knowing if a drunk driver is heading our way. I worry about drunk drivers because people continue to drink and drive. 

The second video is about the "Wyoming 8". These were eight cross-country runners from the University of Wyoming who were returning from Colorado. They had a designated driver but their vehicle was hit by a drunk driver. All eight were killed. This tragic event took place in 2001 and is still remembered today due to that immediate loss of young lives. 

This somber video show shows a Wyoming dirt road and goes through the names of the eight runners as if each were talking.  There are some powerful words said in this video.

One voice states there have been over 600 deaths in the state of Wyoming since the Wyoming eight were killed. To emphasize that point, one voice says, "When are you going to learn?," and then another says, "Drunk driving kills."

These words, "when will we learn" and "when are you going to learn," resonate with me. When will each of us learn that drinking and driving kills, or at the very least has negative career and financial consequences. 

It has been briefed, discussed and Airmen have even been required to sign consequence fact sheets on drinking and driving. But people continue to drink and drive. 

Once again, nine drinking and driving incidents in my unit and, luckily, no one was hurt or killed in any of these incidents. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before something worse happens. 

Of these nine incidents, none of the individuals had a good plan, some thought they were good to drive after they stopped drinking for a few hours, and none even thought to call the Mighty Ninety Wing Safe Ride program number that we made sure was well advertised. 

It is your responsibility to prevent drinking and driving. Here are two ways to do that. First, make the choice to not drink and drive. 

If you plan on drinking, then don't drive; have a designated driver, walk, take a taxi, or stay at home.  Make a plan and stick to it. It is that easy. 

If you drive, then don't drink. DD stands for more than designated driver, it also means doesn't drink. 

It is far too easy to say you are going to only have one drink when you are going to drive. This often leads to more drinks; I have seen this and am sure you have too. 

So please commit yourself to not drinking when you are the designated driver. A second way to prevent drinking and driving is to be a good wingman. 

Help each other by creating a plan, hold each other to the plan, and don't be afraid to call out your wingman if necessary-- a true wingman would. 

Hopefully, my words caught your attention and maybe convinced you to do your part in preventing drinking and driving.  So I ask one final time, when will you learn?

Editor's note: If your back-up plan fails another options is the Mighty Ninety Safe Ride program at 307-773-4663.