Stiff drinks can lead to stiff penalties
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Drink and drive on Yokota Air Base and you could find yourself walking for up to two years.
Col. Mark Schissler, 374th Airlift Wing commander, made the immediate penalties for drinking and driving more stringent effective Jan. 30. The punishments do not fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; they are part of base policy that Schissler dictates — and enforces.
The decision, Schissler said, wasn’t in response to an upswing in alcohol-related offenses. Instead, he decided to “dissuade people from drinking and driving,” after reviewing the old policies.
The new punishments are:
• Up to .049 blood-alcohol content (BAC): Security forces may direct the person to park the vehicle for up to 12 hours.•.05 to .079 BAC: Lose U.S. Forces Japan license for six months.•.08 to .149 BAC: Lose license for one year.•.15 or higher BAC, or second alcohol-related offense or refusal to take BAC test: Lose USFJ license for two years.
The old punishments were:
• Up to .049 BAC: Security forces may direct the person to park the vehicle for up to 12 hours.•.05 to .08 BAC: Lose license for 30 days.•.09 to .10 BAC: Lose license for 90 days.•.10 BAC and above: Lose license for a year.
“What you have is some real teeth in the enforcement” now, Schissler said during a phone interview Thursday. “This is about making the community safer.”
Rumors of a crackdown accompanied the news of the new penalties but Schissler said his security forces aren’t changing the way they do business.
“We’re not going to put out 100 police cars in an effort to try to catch people,” he said.
He said most people who drink and drive are caught coming through the base gates between midnight and 5 a.m. “It’s frightening that they think they’re good enough to drive on Japanese roads between Tokyo and Yokota after drinking.
“My greatest fear is that sooner or later someone will get killed … or kill someone else and I don’t want that to happen,” he said.
No alcohol-related driving incidents have been logged since the rules were enacted last week, according to base officials.
Schissler stressed he’s not taking away the choice for people to drink responsibly.
“The people that won’t live by the standard are the people who will be affected by this change,” he said.