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Monday, December 27, 2010

A Simple Story of DUI: Reflections for New Years

The following brief newspaper story will not shake the world or alter the course of human events, but with New Years Eve fast approaching, the story may just rattle a reveler or two and help convince some stubborn people that one's concern for public safety supersedes a risk of reckless behavior. Evidently, some people understand this very well even when ridiculously drunk. Here is a brief report of an interesting story.

"Iowa City police arrested a man for drunk driving Christmas morning after a receiving a tip -- from the driver himself.

"Police say Francisco Castro, 25, of 10 Video Court, called 911 about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, but spoke little English. After authorities mapped the call to 900 Highway 6 E., officers say they found Castro behind the wheel of a running vehicle.

"Castro told officers he had dialed 911 because he thought he was too intoxicated to continue driving, according to the police complaint.

"Police say there was an open container of hard liquor in the vehicle, and Castro's blood alcohol content was 0.22. Castro had been released from custody from the Johnson County Jail by Sunday night. He did not have a listed phone number and could not be reached for comment."  ("Man Reports Himself To Police," Iowa City Press-Citizen," December 27 2010)

Granted, Francisco Castro may have dialed 911 for fear of his personal safety and not for his concern about others; however, his call may have prevented a terrible holiday season tragedy. Castro should not have begun driving his vehicle while intoxicated, especially after just getting out of jail. This point is very evident and beyond question. Still, maybe a message of hope has surfaced in this bizarre admission of guilt: somewhere during his careless drive, Castro listened to his conscience.

How many of us, at or about that age, should have stopped acting out reckless behaviors? Instead, we completed our menacing acts fully knowing the possible risk we posed to others? This story not only pertains to driving under the influence but also to pushing any limits of public safety. I am not willing to call young Mr. Castro a hero, yet he is certainly a winner of a deadly dilemma. He had a lawless, terrible day that still paled to a possible catastrophe he may have helped avert.

Castro will pay dearly for his call to authorities. If this is Castro' first offense, Iowa law stipulates he faces the following:
  • Up to 1 year in JAIL, a minimum of 48 hours must be spent in jail
  • Fine between $500 and $1000
  • Substance abuse evaluations at YOUR cost
  • Driver's license revocation for 180 days.
  • An ignition interlock device may be required
  • Misdemeanor charge
Whether he knew the legal consequences of his 911 call is uncertain. After all, Castro was very drunk at the time. The fact remains -- he did make the call. Maybe something from deep within instilled from years past superseded his desire to operate the vehicle and "told" him to ask for assistance. In successfully dialing the numbers, he demonstrated his maturity once in the deadly circumstance.

Possibly the story will make one tipsy New Year party person hand over the keys to a designated driver or make one drunk take a bus or cab home. The risks of ignoring threats to public safety outweigh any decision to put others in peril. How could any of us successfully complete our lives knowing that we had killed or maimed others while we were in such a state?

I do not drink and drive any more. I really feel as if I am fortunate to have lived through some reckless, self-initiated acts myself. Maybe, Mr. Castro has reached this point of insight into his young life. I hope so. 

"Statistics show that during Christmas and New Year's, two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes than during comparable periods the rest of the year. And 40 percent of traffic fatalities during these holidays involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired, compared to 28 percent for the rest of December." (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health,
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