I’ve done it. So have my friends. The majority of the nightlife industry has done it as well (and quite a few have been caught). We drink … and then we drive. We clutch the steering wheel, blast the A/C and close one eye to try to focus on the road. As I reflect on all the free alcohol I’ve consumed in 2008 and subsequently driven when I probably shouldn’t, I know something has to change before I—or any of us for that matter—have a night that ends in tragedy. The worst part is, I know better (and you probably do, too).
One morning in 2003, my friend Brandi Nichole Anderson didn’t show up to work. We weren’t aware until mid-afternoon she had been killed in a car collision after being hit by a drunk driver. Yet, on more occasions than I care to admit, my friends and I have likely been as impaired as the man who struck Brandi’s vehicle.
“We know DUI [driving under the influence] offenders drive anywhere between 80 to 100 times before they’re ever caught the first time, so they have this very false sense of security,” says Sandy Heverly, executive director for Stop DUI, a Nevada nonprofit organization. According to the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, 18,235 people were arrested in 2007 alone for DUI in Nevada. Of those arrests, the average blood alcohol content is 0.16 percent; the legal limit in our state is 0.08.
On the nights we’re partying hard, the simplest option is to choose a designated driver. However, that’s not the person who’s had the least alcohol to drink; it’s the person who’s had nothing to drink. Moreover, if there’s no one capable of driving, we need to suck it up and budget for some of the other transportation options in town.
Taxis are an easy alternative, but a ride from the Hard Rock Hotel to Summerlin once cost me $60. That’s a small price to pay, however, versus thousands for a misdemeanor DUI. Still, there’s the concern of getting your car the next day. Designated Drivers (702-456-RIDE) is a service in town where a team drives you and your car home for about $55. “All of our drivers are licensed and insured and very friendly—and we don’t judge,” says Designated Drivers’ Debbie Walker. “We’re not going to preach to you or anything on the way home.” They’re available 24/7 and offer the service for free during the holidays and New Year’s.
People often complain about taking the bus anywhere in Las Vegas. However, for a system only launched in 1992, Citizens Area Transit has expanded greatly and will continue to grow in 2009. For only a couple bucks, you can avoid endangering yourself and others. Additionally, on the ultimate night of alcohol indulgence, they offer free rides from 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 6 p.m. New Year’s Day. “We do that as a public service to make sure that people can get home safely,” says the Regional Transportation Commission’s Allison Huntly. And if planning your travel route seems complicated, they’ve recently added a convenient transit trip planner sponsored by Google on their site (Rtcsouthernnevada.com/transit/route). So no excuses.
“Think of others besides yourself,” Heverly says. “Use the alternatives that are available. Worst-case scenario, use the feet that God gave you to walk on instead of waking up in jail and finding out that you took an innocent person’s life.”
A cross adorned with flowers and the assorted decorations it has accumulated over the past five years still marks the corner of Rainbow and Vegas Drive where the drunk driver hit Brandi’s car. As 2009 begins, let’s collectively make a resolution of responsible, sober driving, so neither you nor I harm ourselves or anyone else. Oh, and please remember to wear your seat belt. We’ll work on going to the gym, getting organized, or quitting smoking next year.