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DUIs cost more than a taxi

No drinking and driving symbol (©RF/NOVA)

Drinking and driving don't mix.

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Beautiful weather, outdoor sports, camping, parties, traveling and summer barbeques are here.

Summer brings more opportunities to consume alcoholic beverages, and with consumption comes certain responsibilities. These include knowing when you've had enough to drink, maintaining your situational awareness and following through with your designated plans for a safe return trip home.

However, any plan can change in an instant. A designated driver may change his mind and leave, the money for a taxi cab may be spent on more drinks or it could even be stolen. Even worse, an inebriated person may feel he is sober enough and close enough to his destination that he may risk getting behind the wheel.

RAF Lakenheath is not immune to these issues, and it is apparent in the number of individuals found driving under the influence of alcohol each year. For the last four years our DUI numbers have been alarming: 21 in 2009, 26 in 2010, 21 in 2011 and we already have 12 this year, four of which occurred in one weekend.

In an attempt to reduce DUIs and the likelihood of unnecessary death or injury, the 48th Fighter Wing has a program that, if used, can help eliminate DUIs all together.

Airmen who find themselves under these circumstances can call Phoenix Taxi. This service is available 24 hours a day by calling 01638 533 060 to obtain a safe ride home with an option to pay later. The servicemember must present ID and then fill out a taxi chit, which serves as a promise to pay within seven days. The company has four regular taxis, one taxi that seats six, two taxis that seat seven and seven taxis that seat eight.

We've all heard the statistics and dangers about driving while intoxicated, but do we fully understand what these actions could really cost us? Many people feel that DUIs won't stop until the repercussions can be directly associated with the event.

Let's just face it, if you get a DUI and end up receiving a demotion, it will take you an average of three to four years to get that stripe back. You will likely receive a referral Enlisted Performance Report, which will prevent you from testing for a year. Then, if you deserve a promotable EPR the next year, you will be eligible to test, but what are the odds you will make it your first time? You may end up waiting an entire year for another promotion cycle to come around.

Now, let's look at some tangible statistics. I've gathered some information using the 2012 pay chart to show how much a DUI could possibly cost over a three year period of time. If you are a Staff Sgt. with four years of service and you get a DUI, your base pay would drop from $2,488 per month to $2,266 per month after your demotion. That's a loss of $8,000 over a three year period as a Senior Airman.

If you are caught off-base there is the potential for fines, towing and impoundment costs, which could reach thousands of dollars.

Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles may require an SR-22 from a driver in order to re-instate driving privileges following traffic-related offenses such as a DUI. An SR-22 car insurance policy could cost around $4,500 over a three year period.

You could be looking at a loss of more than $12,500 over a three year period. That's probably more than you'd have spent on a taxi after drinking.

Drinking and driving is a choice. Make a better choice to ensure you get home safely. If you find yourself in a situation where your plan has failed, don't jeopardize your life, the lives of others or your career. Call a taxi, a friend or a supervisor to arrive home safe and sound.

Take care of yourself and your fellow Liberty Wing Airmen! Make the right choice. Don't drink and drive.