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COLUMN: There’s no excuse for DUIs

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By Mallory Bilger

I spend quite a bit of time gazing at court records. At least once a week I am charged with sifting through the local dockets to see what is newsworthy.
I’ve been working as a reporter long enough to know that many of those records – especially in district court – are mistakes that most people wish they had never made. From parking tickets to petty theft to crimes of a more serious nature, there is a story behind every name. But an offense that I see almost more than any other that continuously haunts because it is so absolutely preventable is driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Today marks the beginning of National Red Ribbon week, Oct. 23-31, and this year’s theme is A Healthy Me is Drug Free. It seemed like a great time to remind local motorists that driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal, unnecessary, ridiculous and risky. Most of all, it’s selfish.
When people choose to drive under the influence, they are putting their temporary desire to get somewhere while intoxicated above the safety of themselves and others.
DUI is unfortunately a rampant, common crime. It amazes me over and over how often people in the community make the decision to drink, take drugs – or a combination of both – and get behind the wheel. It is so easy not to, yet so many people still make that decision every day.
I won’t lie. I have selfish motivation when it comes to my passionate disdain for this crime, and it’s the desire to protect my family. Monday through Friday my husband drives to work, and most days I – with my three precious little ones in tow – set out to numerous destinations via the highways. I pray for traveling mercies often. My father always told me that you could control what goes on in your vehicle, but you couldn’t control how other motorists were going to drive. Turns out, Daddy was right.
With almost 14 years of experience in my field as a journalist, I have seen too often how driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs ruins lives. I have covered the trial of a young man who was faced with unintentionally killing his friend when he, while under the influence of alcohol, crashed his car and killed one of his passengers.
I have seen the embarrassment and hurt caused to the accused, their families and loved ones when high profile individuals and community members in public positions made the poor decision to drink and drive. And yet, despite the threat of hurting or even killing themselves or others, people continue to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Please, if you or someone you know struggles with a drinking problem or a drug addiction, get help. There are numerous community groups that offer their assistance in our newspaper every week. You can learn more about those groups and the assistance they offer on page B-2. And if you are a parent or adult involved in the lives of pre-teens or teenagers, talk to them about the detrimental effects of drugs and alcohol. If you are teaching a teenager to drive for the first time, talk to him or her about how absolutely essential it is to be completely sober and alert while driving.
I pray there comes a day that I never have to see another DUI in the court records again. I know that is not likely to happen, but there is no good excuse for driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Not one.