Designate a driver, save a life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 6, 2010

At least once a week, I travel to the courthouse to pick up marriages and land transactions and to take a gander at what I call “the big board.”

Located to the right of the entrance of the courthouse, the “big board” sits next to the door of the circuit clerk’s office. On it, you can find a plethora of information about the comings and goings of the county’s judicial system.

Usually, the “big board” is crammed full of notices of meetings, of job openings, court dockets and such. Sometimes you can find a crayon scribbling of some bored child tacked haphazardly across the corner.

Tuesday, the most interesting thing I found was the upcoming criminal docket set for Jan. 25. On it were 46 cases ranging from both a murder and a manslaughter case to a barrage of drug and traffic-related cases.

Aside from the drug cases, a strange trend emerged — an increasing number of driving while under the influence cases were set to go before the judge.

And believe it or not, both the murder case and the manslaughter case stemmed from someone allegedly getting behind the wheel while intoxicated — either on alcohol or on controlled substances — and causing someone else to die as a result.

Not too long ago, we ran a story about the number of DUI arrests over the Christmas weekend where at least 10 people were booked into the county jail for driving under the influence.

Then the following New Year’s weekend, another nine were jailed on similar charges — even after police announced they would be performing increased patrols concentrating on impaired drivers.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics showed that in 2008, 966 people lost their lives as a result of traffic accidents in Alabama. Of those, 315 of those were alcohol-related.

Of those 315, 10 were from Covington County.

It seems the number 10 is becoming a popular number. I just hope it’s not another 10 in 2010, considering that every one of those deaths could have been prevented.

I come from a long line of folks who enjoyed a nip or two or 12, so I understand the pull that alcohol can have on a person.

I personally don’t drink, because genetics show I probably would like it too much, and I can’t abide not feeling in control.

Besides, I also empathize with the feeling of loss that the families who have lost a loved one because of a DUI — like the families of those involved in the two cases set on our upcoming docket — and could never shoulder the responsibility of knowing I caused someone’s death.

It’s a feeling none of us ever want to experience — on either side.

So think about this while partaking during the upcoming football game. Use your common sense. Don’t drink and drive.