NEWS | June 15, 2011

How much is too much for a night out?

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer Hudson, Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Can you afford to toss away thousands of dollars? Perhaps you can, but most of us don't have money to burn. Yet there are still a number of people out there who get behind the wheel intoxicated - potentially running the risk of getting caught and costing them money and a lot more.

This can easily be avoided by taking a taxi cab or arranging for a designated driver prior to going out for a night on the town. The average cost of a cab ride from Joint Base Charleston - Air Base or Weapons Station to downtown Charleston costs between $20 and $40. If that seems too expensive, think about the hit your wallet would take if you are pulled over for driving under the influence or while impaired: thousands.

According to Joint Base Charleston Chief of Military Justice, Capt. Jacob Nist, a service member who commits a DUI or DWI offense is not only a poor reflection upon their command or unit, but they also face significant personal and financial consequences as well.

"Getting behind the wheel intoxicated is not an option in today's military, as it could be a devastating landslide for an Airman or Sailor's career," he said. "A DUI can serve as a basis to deny reenlistment, result in a discharge from service, impact promotions and be a cause for revocation of driving privileges."

In a fleet-wide message sent March 11, the Navy's Second Fleet commander stressed to all Sailors how the "0-0-1-3" approach to drinking offers a simple rule of thumb to keep them within the limits of responsible alcohol use.

"This approach can be utilized by anyone - military or civilian. It is zero drinks if you're under age, zero drinks if you're driving, one drink per hour and three drinks per setting," said Religious Programs Specialist Chief Stephen Walz, JB CHS-Weapons Station command drug and alcohol advisor.

"Having a good time is not defined by the quantity of alcohol you can consume or how quickly you can consume it," he continued. "There are many different ways to go out and have an enjoyable night without waking up the following day with an extreme hangover. I am not telling anyone to abstain from drinking, but I am saying Sailors and Airmen need to be smart, drink responsibly and always have a plan to get home."

"Alcohol abuse undermines a command's readiness, puts the safety and welfare of our Sailors, Airmen and families at risk and is incompatible with the high level of standards we hold our service members to," said Cmdr. Charles Phillip, Naval Support Activity executive officer. "It is of utmost importance that if service members consume alcohol, they do it in a responsible manner."

According to the laws in all 50 states, it is illegal to drive any type of vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration over the specific limit of 0.08.

A driver's ability to split their attention between two or more sources of visual information can be impaired by a BAC as low as 0.02 percent. When a BAC of 0.05 percent or more has been reached, the impairment occurs in the psychomotor performance resulting in slower eye movements, visual perception, reaction time and slower time processing information.

For example, a 160-pound individual will have a BAC of approximately 0.04 percent just one hour after drinking two 12-ounce beers or two other standard drinks on an empty stomach. The risk of a motor vehicle crash increases as a driver's BAC increases and the more demanding the driving task, the greater the impairment caused by even low doses of alcohol.

Alcohol progressively affects different brain areas. Alcohol first affects the part of the brain controlling inhibitions. When people lose their inhibitions, they may talk more, get rowdy or do foolish things. After several drinks, they may feel "high," but in reality it is their nervous system slowing down. Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated endangers lives. It is not only dangerous for the driver but for any accompanied passengers, other vehicles on the road and pedestrians.

"Nothing would be more tragic than if one of our service members was injured or killed, or injured or killed another person because that member had been drinking and driving," said Commander Phillip.

"Bottom line here is to have a plan, drink responsibly, but also look out for each other," he concluded. "If plan 'A' happens to fail, have alternate plans to ensure that you are taking every precaution possible to ensure safety is at the forefront. It only takes one drinking related incident to change the course of a service member's career and wallet. Service members must be proactive and make those smart choices ... getting a DUI/DWI is not an option."