How Much Is Too Much? We Team Up with LPD to See the Effects of Alcohol - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/2/06

How Much Is Too Much? We Team Up with LPD to See the Effects of Alcohol

The Lubbock police department is using alcohol to keep drunks off the road. 658 people were arrested last year by Lubbock police on suspicion of drinking and driving. And in order to keep drunk drivers off the roads, police use a live alcohol workshop to teach recruits how to do field sobriety tests to spot intoxicated people. In a special report, NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel partners with the Lubbock Police Academy to show us the effects of alcohol.

When police pull over intoxicated drivers, they usually hear the same excuse, "I only had a couple drinks." But in some cases that's all it takes to be over the legal limit.

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August 27th, 2003, 29-year-old Brett Walrath was riding his bike when a drunk driver hit him. He later died. A year later, 10-year-old Rachel, 6-year-old Madeline, and 1-month-old Yates were riding with their parents in Seminole. A drunk driver ran a stop sign, and then ran right through their pick up, killing all three children. The real tragedy is these people didn't have to die. The people convicted of the crimes, have one thing in common, they thought they were okay to drive.

Cpl. Jim Altgelt says, "Everyone has theories on how many alcoholic drinks you can drink." But the law says .08 is the limit. In order to enforce that law, the Lubbock police department trains it's recruits to spot and stop drunk drivers before they kill. How? They fight fire with fire. In this case, they're fighting with whiskey, tequila, and rum. And that's where the volunteers come in.

"We like to have a good time." Jared Owens is a typical college student. "Usually if I'm up this early it's for a Texas Tech football game." He goes to South Plains College and works part time in production at NewsChannel 11. Today, Jared has a new assignment. He has volunteered to be one of 16 others to get drunk for the Lubbock Police Department.

"It's much easier to see validated clues we look for in a standard field sobriety test in a live person instead of a video screen." Corporal Jim Altgelt runs the live alcohol workshop for the Lubbock police academy. He pours the alcohol and makes sure each volunteer is drinking for the full two hours. The goal; to get these people legally drunk .08.

But first, Jared and the others are weighed in to find out how much alcohol it will take. For Jared, it's 11 ounces in 2 hours. 11 ounces of alcohol is equivalent to 11 shot glasses at a bar. Our volunteer Jared will have to drink all of those shots in 2 hours to be over the legal limit. "That's a lot. I'm actually nervous."

The volunteers have to combine all of their alcohol into four drinks. Two in the first round, and two in the second. In Jared's case, that means 5 1/2 shots in two cups. After the first two drinks, we interview Jared. "I'm okay, feel good, I'm buzzin. But I'm not overwhelmed. I would possibly fail, it will be close because I haven't eaten."

We notice that after the first two drinks, the group, including Jared, start to loosen up. But are they drunk, yet? When time is up, the group gets a breathalyzer. And while some in the group are already well on their way to .08, Jared blows a .042. Half way there.

Without delay, round two begins. Cpl. Altgelt says, "During the process they find out what their BAC is and then they realize 'Oh, wow, this is what a .08 is' and maybe they never get there or maybe they've been above that and been driving and so hopefully it can educate them too."

After the final drink, all volunteers are supposed to be above the legal limit. We asked Jared, "Would you get into the car and drive right now, honestly?" "It's tough because I'm borderline yes, and borderline no. I feel fine, feel like I could drive, but I'm also at that point where I know I shouldn't."

Jared says he can drive. And that is usually the same response LPD gets from most people after they've had a "couple" of drinks and they're pulled over for driving drunk.

"I'm buzzed, but not what I would consider drunk." But the true test comes in the final read from Jared's breathalyzer. He blows a .063. According to Jared's blood alcohol level he is not legally drunk, but that doesn't mean he should be behind the wheel.

The next step is the police recruits get to run their tests. But would they take Jared to jail or let him drive home? Two-out-of-six said "Yes" he would be arrested for driving while intoxicated. Even though he was not over the legal limit, police say drinking anything can effect your driving. The moral of this story, if you plan on drinking anything and then driving, you should also plan on the consequences.

The biggest consequence when drinking and driving is that you could hurt yourself or others. But if you do make a bad choice and get caught drinking and driving, here are the penalties for a DWI. First, it's a Class B misdemeanor. You will have to go to jail for a minimum confinement of three days. Also, if found guilty, you could face up to 180 days in jail and or a two-thousand dollar fine.

NewsChannel 11 Special Reports
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