“You’re Probably OK to Drive”

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Rich Cross
  • 341 MOS/CC
Several years ago, a member of my squadron made a terrible decision and chose to drive after having "just one too many drinks." He and his supervisor thought he was "OK to drive" but this wasn't the case in the eyes of the law and this mistake will forever haunt him. To his credit, he stepped forward on his own initiative and wrote the following article in hopes that those who read it will learn from his painful mistake and not follow in his footsteps.

Here is his story:

They thought I was "probably OK to drive."

It started out as a great evening. My supervisor and his wife were setting me up on a blind date with one of her co-workers, a nurse -- yeah! We all decided to meet at a little local casino to play some lighthearted blackjack and we all thought the fun atmosphere would make getting to know each other easier. A couple drinks helped the conversation flow easier and we also had a blast at the card table; we actually managed to break even. Since my date and I were getting along so well, my supervisor and his wife suggested we all go to a club where we could sit and listen to some live local music and continue our conversations.

Before I knew it, a few hours at the jazz club were behind me, along with a drink or two, or three. The evening quickly stretched into the early morning hours. We decided that a nice late night breakfast would be just the ticket. Before we took off, the girls went to the ladies room to "powder their noses" and my supervisor said to me "why don't you ride with me and the wife ... you've had a few." My response to that was "come on, I only had a couple at the casino and what, two or three here, and we've been out for like seven hours ... do I seem drunk?"

In all honesty, I didn't really feel drunk at all and I felt fine to drive. In hind sight I now know that the alcohol impaired my judgment. Then the fateful words came out of my supervisor's mouth; "yeah, you're right, you're probably OK to drive." So when the girls returned, I got behind the wheel of my car and headed to breakfast - a few moments later my life was forever changed.

I only made it two or three blocks when I saw the trooper's lights on behind me and I could feel my heart sink to the floor. I wasn't speeding, I wasn't weaving and there wasn't anyone else on the street but me. What could I have done wrong?

The trooper came up to me and said, "I had originally thought you hadn't yielded at the flashing yellow back there but when you stopped I still didn't see break lights, let me go to the back of your vehicle and see if they come on." The lights didn't work and he returned to the driver's window and asked if I knew they were out. I said "No, I'll have to get that checked."

It was at this moment when he smelled the beer on my breath and asked if I'd been drinking. Of course, there was nothing left to say but "yes."

To make a long and painful story short, even though I did 'relatively well' on the field sobriety test, I blew a .09 BAC on the portable test unit, which was enough to take me to the station for the official breath test. Next thing I know I'm in hand cuffs in the back of the patrol car on the way to the police station with the full knowledge that my career in the military is over. At the station, I blew a .081.

In the end I didn't lose my career, but I did lose more than $7,000, the respect of my co-workers and supervision, and I had to endure a lot of punishment from the base and the state of Washington. It took me a long time to get that respect back and I'm truly proud that I have. To this day, I have not had a single drink of alcohol and gotten behind the wheel.

The point of me sharing this dark page in my history goes back to that one sentence: "you're probably OK to drive." How many times have any of us said that to someone or to ourselves? If you have or ever do say such a thing, red flags should be going up everywhere. My supervisor didn't want to embarrass me in front of a new date, and to this day he wished he had. I don't blame him of course, because it was after all, my decision. No one knows what a BAC is after one drink or 10. And you may not know, as in my case, that your brake lights aren't working and the next police officer is going to pull you over. If the words "I think" or "I'm probably" ever precede the words "OK to drive" come out of your mouth or cross your mind, don't get in the car and don't let someone else do it either - it's not worth it!

I was lucky; I didn't kill or injure someone or myself. I thank the Lord for that every day. If telling my story can keep one person from driving after drinking, then it will have been worth the effort. Please, please remember ... if you ever think or say "I'm probably OK to drive" - you're not!