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Driving drunk has no place in Tahoe scene

Andrew Becker, Guest Columnist

My friend accidentally drove his truck into a telephone pole last winter, 200 feet from his house.

Although he was not injured, his ego was bruised and there was considerable damage to his truck.

He was lucky that it was only cosmetic damage to his truck considering the fact that he was drunk. His girlfriend, a few months later, did not have the same luck. While she was not involved in an accident, she was arrested for drunk driving. Aside from the fines, the court appearances and the suspended license, she also had to take an alcohol and drug abuse class.

Although she tries to convince me that it was not that bad, I know that she was humiliated by the experience. While not as lucky as her boyfriend in terms of police, she was still fortunate.

She was embarrassed and it was an incredible inconvenience, but the bottom line is she was not hurt nor was anyone else.

This is not a didactic column by any stretch. By preaching or judging, I’d be a hypocrite. I’m just wondering aloud here.

That seems like the way it goes here in Tahoe. We work hard, we play harder and when we party, we do it with hard-core enthusiasm. That is part of the Tahoe image, the Tahoe lifestyle for many people.

Hopefully, I’m wrong on this one. Maybe Tahoe is more aware than I think.

Drunk driving education has been disseminated aggressively over the past few years, the police have cracked down on drunk drivers and the penalties have stiffened.

But in a place like Tahoe and with the lifestyle it affords, it seems, to a greater degree, only the later two apply here.

Tahoe, while a relatively small community, is spread out, and getting around the lake, or home from the bars is, admittedly, not the easiest. That is not to make excuses for anyone.

While we continue the debate over proper allocation of resources for the best possible transit system, the resorts offer shuttle services for some visitors and there is a taxi service, the overall environment is not necessarily conducive to responsible drinking as evinced by the weekly sheriff’s report and its listing of drunk driving arrests.

Besides my two aforementioned friends, I know at least two other acquaintances that have DUI’s on their records in the past year. Find some new friends you say? Perhaps. But that does not rectify the problem for Tahoe.

None of these people are evil, malicious individuals that start their night of imbibing by stating the goal of the evening is to get tanked and operate a vehicle and be a menace to the community.

The first step, if one is going to drink, and by no means am I suggesting that it is requisite to the Tahoe lifestyle, is an obvious one. It’s up to the individual.

Believe and adhere to the rhetoric of the advertisements. Know when to say when. Give your keys up. Let the bartender or a friend call you a cab. Get a ride home.

This actually makes one’s life easier rather than more difficult considering the possibilities.

If that first step has been skipped, ignored or soaked, it’s up to someone to take control and intervene. This should be done at the beginning of the night with the assignment of a designated driver. If not, do what is necessary to get the keys out of that person’s hands. Most of the bars in town have a designated driver program and it’s not a bad deal.

Step up for your friends. Don’t let them get behind the wheel. Perhaps we are tired of reading these columns and it’s not a particularly exciting one to write. But, we do need to remember that it’s not only the individual behind the wheel- the drunk driver drags the community behind.

Andrew Becker is the Advertising Coordinator for the Tahoe World.

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