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Bend the Elbow, Go to Jail

Drinking and Driving Is Dumb


Bomber Drink: There I was, sitting in an Anchorage Airport bar a couple of weeks ago, when two very large guys sat down and ordered Irish car bombs.

This got my attention. Were they planning to board my plane? It turned out that it’s a popular drink, not something that goes boom. The bartender poured Guinness stout into two pint glasses and filled two shot glasses with Baileys Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey. He dropped the shot glasses into the beers, and they hastily chugged the mixture.

(You apparently must gulp down this potent mixture, or the Baileys will curdle and the thing will taste horrible.)

“You guys aren’t pilots on American Airlines Flight 278, are you?” I asked.

They laughed. It turned out they’d been working at the Prudhoe Bay Alaskan oil facility, on the far North Slope. “We haven’t had a drink in three months,” one told me.

By Barney Brantingham

“I hope you aren’t driving, either,” I said. A sign over the bar warned that on your first DUI, your car will be impounded for a month, but on your second within 10 years of the first, your car will be confiscated forever ​— ​even if it’s someone else’s, like your mother’s.

But somehow, some people keep getting their boozy hands on other wheels. Take Lori Phillips, a retired and once highly paid accountant and CEO for an Alaskan oil company. After facing four DUI charges over the years and being convicted twice, the 58-year-old Phillips downed the equivalent of 18 shots of liquor one day, got behind the wheel despite a revoked license, and roared out into rush-hour traffic. She was out on bail from a prior DUI charge.

Result: a woman severely injured and her fiancé killed on the Seward Highway, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Phillips, with a blood- alcohol level four times the legal limit, was unhurt. Last March, a judge sent her to prison for 20 years.

Not that Santa Barbara doesn’t have its share of alkies who risk their lives and those of others. A friend told me of watching a guy crawl on his hands and knees out of an upper State Street bar and drag himself toward his car. He somehow pulled himself up into the driver’s seat, got the vehicle going, and sped off. He apparently didn’t injure anyone and avoided arrest.

In the past year, 519 drivers were busted by Santa Barbara police for DUI, according to Sergeant Mike McGrew. Aside from any jail time, they’re looking at up to $10,000 in wallet pain, including fines, higher insurance rates, time off the job or losing it, and attorney fees.

On the positive side, there were fewer arrests than a year ago, when the total from October 1, 2011, to this month was 570. Maybe we’re learning something.

It’s dumb to drink and drive, but think of the real dummies who know that cops are waiting at a checkpoint somewhere but get loaded anyway. In the past year, Santa Barbara police set up 22 checkpoints, checked 9,889 vehicles, administered 540 sobriety tests, busted 34 drivers for driving under the influence (that’s included in the total I mentioned), and cited 32 drivers for suspended or revoked licenses and 118 for not having any licenses at all.

Last year, checkpoints yielded 27 DUI busts (maybe we’re not learning anything), 28 suspension/revoked citations, and 80 for being unlicensed.

Last Fiesta, Sgt. McGrew was on patrol in City Lot 11 at 1:18 a.m., when a 21-year-old kid going the wrong way almost collided with his patrol car. The kid started to walk away ​— ​fast. He didn’t get far. He was on probation for DUI but said he’d downed four large shots of tequila anyway.

Three nights later, another 21-year-old driver smashed into a stone wall on Cliff Drive. The car rolled, skidded down the road, righted itself, and the guy kept driving, leaving his bumper, computer parts, checkbook, and other debris behind, police said.

A few nights later, a guy smashed into the freeway underpass on Cabrillo Boulevard. Bleeding and barefoot, he got combative with officers and denied being the driver. Result: Another DUI.

I could go on and on because this goes on and on. When will we learn?

Any Wednesday: I squirmed in my seat at the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre Friday night, hoping that actress Leesa Beck, in Muriel Resnik’s comedy Any Wednesday, would somehow escape the clutches of a corporate-raider heel. Not easily done. The 1960s play runs through November 4.

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