Fewer at Lejeune risk driving drunk;

4 Jun 2002 | Cpl. Allan J. Grdovich

The Corps' safety awareness campaign won a partial victory June 3 when a Provost Marshal's Office preliminary report here showed fewer service members are willing to risk the consequences of drunk driving.

According to the semi-annual report, the Traffic Safety Division announced driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence offenses for Lejeune-based Marines and sailors were down compared to the same time last year. 

Two hundred and sixty-four service members here received DWIs in 2001, said Crime Prevention Specialist James E. Harris. The report suggested that number might decline by year's end.

More safety briefs, drug-and alcohol-awareness education along with harsh consequences may be prime reasons for the decline, said Headquarters and Support Battalion's 1st Sgt. Jimmie A. Blair.

"We can still bring that number down. There is always room for improvement," he added.

One way the first sergeant takes care of his Marines is by issuing each of his troops over the age of 21 an "Arrive Alive" card, which is part of the local Arrive Alive Program here. Marines can use the card for emergencies, such as when they have had too much to drink or have no money and must get back on base, said the A Company first sergeant.

The card allows a Marine or sailor to be transported to base by one of the sponsoring cab companies. The program calls for the officer-of-the-day to pay the cab fees, and allows the service member to pay it back at a later date with no questions asked.

"It's a great idea but many people are reluctant to use it. No one should be embarrassed or afraid to use the card because it's anonymous," Blair said.  "You can't get in trouble for using your Arrive Alive card, but you will get in trouble for getting caught driving drunk."

Blair said unfortunately the Arrive Alive Program is command sponsored, and not every unit uses or knows what the program is.

At many Division units, such as Headquarters Company, 6th Marine Regiment, Marines and sailors rely on the buddy system.

"We're a pretty tight unit, and if we know we're going to have a few (drinks), there is always a designated driver," said Cpl. Rich C. Kazmierski, a 6th Marines administration clerk.

Nevertheless, receiving a DWI may just be a hard and expensive fact of life and many Marines and sailors are ill informed on what to do or what their rights are if they are caught, said Cpl. Christopher J. Hislip, a PMO physical security specialist.

North Carolina DWI laws vary from the base drunk-driving laws, he said. That is where most of the misunderstandings arise. For instance, if a driver is a suspect and must blow into a breathalyzer in town, police will make no charges if the person has less than a .08 blood alcohol content, he explained.

"On base, if a driver has a BAC of .05 to .08, the driver will be charged with driving under the influence," he said.

This charge requires a mandatory suspension of on-base driving privileges for six months, according to the base order.

"If a person is caught with a BAC of .08 or higher, by base and North Carolina standards it is DWI. They don't give DUIs off base so it is stricter while driving on base," Hislip added.

According to drunk-driving laws pertaining to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, if a driver is caught driving while intoxicated the person's on-base driving privileges will be suspended for a minimum of one year. The service member's command may also add punitive charges they deem fit for the offense.

"Just don't do it," said Blair about driving drunk. "The number (of drunk driving offenses) can still come down if we continue to look out for each other."