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RAF LAKENHEATH, England — In an effort to eliminate drunken driving this holiday weekend, 48th Fighter Wing safety officers will remind personnel leaving RAF Lakenheath for a night out to make sure they have a plan to get home safely.

Over the past three months, six airmen here have been cited for driving under the influence. As part of its ongoing DUI awareness program, the wing’s safety office issued a DUI condition red, the highest of its kind.

In condition red, Lakenheath heightens DUI awareness through education efforts and emphasizes a variety of programs available to its airmen, such as its Airmen Against Drunk Driving program that provides free transportation to intoxicated base personnel.

Usually, it takes at least seven DUIs in a 90-day period for Lakenheath to be in condition red. On Monday, the air base had the opportunity to go back to the lower DUI condition yellow but decided to stay at red into the three-day Columbus Day weekend. The third and lowest DUI condition is green, which is zero to three DUIs in a 90-day period.

“Because we had a fatal accident about two weeks ago and [a recent] alcohol-related incident, not a DUI, the intent was to keep the awareness up for at least through the three-day weekend,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Short, chief of the wing safety office.

In fiscal 2006, Lakenheath had 18 DUIs, up from 13 in fiscal 2005. The last DUI occurred Sept. 16 and the air base recently held a wing safety day on which DUI awareness was reinforced as well as vehicle safety, base officials said. The safety day was a planned event that fell at the same time the base was in condition red, safety officials said.

At nearby RAF Mildenhall, there were 14 DUIs in fiscal 2006, down from 17 in fiscal 2005. In order for Mildenhall to be in DUI condition red, the base has to have more than six DUIs in a 90-day period. The base is in DUI condition green.

Personnel leaving Lakenheath this weekend likely will see safety personnel from 8 to 10 p.m. at both gates, where they’ll be handing out taxi business cards and making sure airmen have contact phone numbers they can call for a ride home.

“We don’t want people to let their guard down,” said Master Sgt. Robert Paton, superintendent of the wing’s safety office.

First Lt. John Biram, an armament flight commander for the 48th Munitions Squadron, died in a traffic incident Sept. 23. The Suffolk Constabulary is investigating the crash, which happened between Cambridge and Newmarket. Local police would not say whether alcohol contributed to the accident, because toxicology tests were not yet complete.

Across U.S. Air Forces Europe there were 99 DUIs in fiscal 2006, down from 121 in fiscal 2005.

Within Navy Region Europe, there were 28 DUIs from August 2005 to July 2006. The previous year there were 46 DUIs. A NAVEUR spokesperson attributed the decline to an increase in awareness and prevention programs as well as random sobriety checks at the gates.

In calendar year 2005, U.S. Army Europe had more than 1,500 DUIs. Through the second quarter of calendar year 2006, there have been 351. USAREUR spokeswoman Lt. Col. Liz Hibner attributed the higher number of DUIs in 2005 to the relatively high number of soldiers returning from deployments.

Gen. David McKiernan, USAREUR commander, sent out a safety message a few days before the holiday weekend that touched on drunken driving.

“If you plan to hold get-togethers that will involve alcohol consumption, make arrangements in advance for a safe means of transportation, if needed, to ensure your guests do not drink and drive. Do not let things get out of control, and always watch out for your buddies,” the message stated.

Stars and Stripes reporter Sandra Jontz contributed to this story.

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