Putting the brakes on drunk driving
There’s been a major drive the past 23 years to stop impaired drivers. It began with the Governor’s Task Force to Reduce Drunk Driving Advisory Board that was formed in 1984 while Robert D. Orr was in office.
Those efforts were accelerated in 2000, when, under Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon, the state passed the law that lowered the blood-alcohol content at which a person is presumed intoxicated from .10 percent to .08 percent. The law went into effect July 1, 2001.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute continues to provide funding to law enforcement agencies so extra enforcement, known as Operation Pull Over, can be conducted during the times of year that persons are more likely to be drinking and driving.
Media blitzes have included the phrases ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,’ ‘Buzz driving is drunk driving,’ and ‘Over the limit. Under arrest.’
The Hoosier state has consistently been in the top 10 of the 50 states with the lowest number of alcohol-related fatal crashes, thanks to these efforts, as well as others I haven’t mentioned.
But some people still don’t get it.
They drive somewhere ‘ a ball game, a restaurant, a friend’s house, even their employer’s home ‘ imbibe in some alcoholic beverages, then get back behind the wheel to drive home or somewhere else.
There is nothing wrong with drinking, but by now adults should have gotten the message that it’s not OK to drink and drive. Not only are they putting themselves in danger, but they are endangering everyone else. And too often it’s the innocent victims who lose. Tragically, too many families have laid to rest loved ones who have been killed by someone who had no business being behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, some adults haven’t gotten the message. And, what’s more surprising is who some of these clueless people are.
Take, for example, Scott Syverson, the Fishers High School principal.
The case against Syverson might not have gotten the attention it has if he had been arrested and taken to jail like most intoxicated drivers. Instead, the police officer who stopped Syverson drove him the rest of the way to his home, which was less than a mile away from the traffic stop.
The officer, who now has had his discretion, as well as the entire police department’s, called into question, might not have made the decision that most people expected of him, but he did make the ultimate decision: to remove an impaired driver from the road. Isn’t that the goal behind the zero tolerance stance?
Syverson is not the first person to get a free pass from jail. And while he didn’t have to endure any time in the slammer, Syverson’s career, at least at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, is most likely over. The school board has agreed with the school superintendent’s recommendation to suspend the principal until a meeting next month when it will decide whether to terminate his contract.
Everything that has stemmed from this unfortunate case can be used as a learning experience, not just for the community of Fishers, but for all communities. Syverson, hopefully, has learned that driving under the influence will not ‘ and should not ‘ be tolerated. The Fishers Police Dept. is reviewing its policy that allows officers to make discretionary decisions regarding arrests.
But one aspect that appears to be missing is the acceptance of any responsibility by the person who allowed Syverson, whose BAC was more than twice the legal limit, to leave her property, get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive.
This person, the superintendent of the school system where Syverson works, reportedly has said that the past few weeks of media coverage since the Dec. 22 traffic stop after Syverson left her home has led to emotions from ‘sorrow to outrage’ and has threatened to disrupt the educational process for the students there.
Usually, I am a big promoter of people taking responsibility for their own actions. In this case, that would mean that Syverson should have known when to stop drinking so he could drive home or that he should have been responsible enough to know that he had no business getting behind the wheel and taking the chance of maiming or killing innocent people just because he chose to have few drinks. But, in this incident, I believe Supt. Concetta Raimondi owes the school corporation, as well as the community, some kind of apology. As host of a party where alcohol is served, she has an obligation too to not let this kind of thing happen.
The whole ordeal should be a lesson to us all. If you’re going to have a gathering where you serve alcohol, help your guests drink responsibly, or at least make sure they don’t get behind the wheel when it’s time to leave.
Be responsible. If you drink, don’t drive.