December 2004


Capt. Sandra Tong: Police Beat

The Christmas and New Year's seasons are fast approaching - a time for celebrations with friends, coworkers and families. Unfortunately, at these festive gatherings some people drink alcoholic beverages before they realize they don't have a plan to get home safely.  Don't let yourself be caught in a position where you are driving your vehicle after a party at which you have been drinking. Plan ahead and carpool with a designated driver, take a taxi or forego the alcohol for fruit juice.

Alcohol is a drug. Technically, it is a central nervous system depressant. The fact that it is legal and can be bought over the counter, like cough medicine, doesn't render it any less potent.

I have gathered some information generated by SF Police Department members who train officers about Driving Under the Influence (DUI) investigations and arrests. The following are just some highlights from the vast resources available that could help prevent you from getting behind the wheel of a car if you have been drinking or help you recognize the symptoms of someone else who is driving while intoxicated:

• most drivers who die in traffic collisions were drinking prior to driving;

• most drivers in fatal traffic collisions can be legally classified as DUI;

• alcohol-related traffic collisions are nine times more likely to result in death than similar accidents not involving alcohol;

• drivers who have been consuming alcoholic beverages are more likely to take excessive risks;

• drivers who have been drinking are more likely to have slower reaction times;

• in a special study of people leaving bars between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., one in seven had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10 or greater. The legal limit is .08;

• a conservative estimate is that the typical DUI violator will drive under the influence 80 times per year, or one out of every four or five days.

How alcohol consumption translates into what can be a dangerous level varies greatly depending upon various factors, such as overall health and whether other medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, have been ingested. Weight, level of fatigue, length of time over which the beverages were consumed and whether the person has eaten are other factors.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that a person who has been consuming alcohol will lose good judgment before he or she loses physical abilities, like balance and coordination. In other words, you are not your own best judge.

The two greatest driving errors that people who have been drinking commit are lane/median straddling and excessively wide turns. So remember, take a taxi and designate a sober driver if you know you will be drinking at a party. Remember, there is no safe way to drive while under the influence. Even one drink can make you an unsafe driver.

The Nov. 16 community meeting had a drunk driving presentation by Nicamer Tolentino, from the SF Department of Public Health.

The next Richmond District Police/Community Forum will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 1 p.m., at the Richmond Station's community room. Bring a holiday snack to share and bring ideas and a guest speaker list you'd like to see implemented next year.

Happy holidays!

Capt. Sandra Tong is the commanding officer at the Richmond Police Station.