DUIs in the Spotlight

The chief of a federal safety agency, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, was charged with driving while intoxicated Dec. 3 and has resigned. Word of the arrest apparently caught official Washington, D.C., by surprise when the City of Fairfax, Va., Police Department posted a news release about it Dec. 5. The following day, a presidential proclamation of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month asked Americans to "make responsible decisions and take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving" during the month of December.

A statement attributed to Babbitt and posted on the FAA's website Dec. 6 said: "Today I submitted my resignation to Secretary Ray LaHood and it has been accepted. Serving as FAA Administrator has been an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career. But I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by my colleagues at the FAA. They run the finest and safest aviation system in the world and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work alongside them. I am confident in their ability to successfully carry out all of the critical safety initiatives underway and the improvements that the FAA has planned. I also want to thank Secretary LaHood for his leadership and dedication to the safety of the traveling public."

The police department said its policy on public information requires that the arrest of any city or school system official or employee, any elected or appointed local, state, or federal government official, or any local, state, or federal law enforcement officer for any criminal charge or serious traffic charge (e.g., driving under the influence, reckless driving) be publicly released. This news release says Babbitt, 65, was arrested around 10:30 p.m. Dec. 3 by a patrol officer who stopped Babbitt's car after seeing it traveling on the wrong side of a road. Babbitt, who was alone in the car, was charged and later released on a personal recognizance bond; The Washington Post reported he has a scheduled Feb. 2 court appearance and has been placed on leave.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving took note of the proclamation and added December is one of the most dangerous months on Americag's roads "due to a high incidence of alcohol and drug-related traffic crashes." Crashes involving drunk drivers in December 2009 killed 753 people, according to MADD, which offered these tips for preventing impaired driving during the holiday season:

  • Designate a sober driver before celebrations begin
  • Plan safe parties, including providing non-alcoholic drink options to guests and not serving alcohol the last hour of the gathering
  • Never serve alcohol to those under the age of 21
  • If you've been drinking, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, don't hesitate to contact your local law enforcement
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride with a driver who is impaired, take the driver's keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely

President Obama's proclamation says reducing drugged driving by 10 percent over the next five years is part of the administration's 2011 National Drug Control Strategy. "We are collaborating with State and local governments to bolster enforcement efforts, implement more effective legislation, and support successful, evidence-based prevention programs. These ongoing initiatives are supplemented by our Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, which aims to deter impaired driving during the holiday season," it states.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Dec 06, 2011