Yokota wraps up 2-week program on DUIs
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Yokota’s 374th Security Forces Squadron wrapped up a two-week campaign early Sunday aimed at halting intoxicated drivers.
The “You Drink & Drive, You Lose” program, which began Aug. 27, was an extension of a nationwide U.S. crackdown on drunken driving. The effort started five years ago in the United States, but Yokota officials were taking part for the first time.
Each night over the past two weeks, security forces personnel — aided by unit first sergeants and other chief master sergeants — set up DUI checkpoints at random locations around base. None led to an arrest, said Master Sgt. Alain Clifford, the noncommissioned officer in charge of police services for the 374th Security Forces Squadron.
“We didn’t have one for the entire month of August,” he said. “For the national campaign, they put it at the end of summer around Labor Day. In the U.S., there’s usually a spike in DUI cases to round off the summer.”
Clifford said Yokota has seen just 10 incidents involving DUI this year and none since July — a dramatic decrease from 2003, when 32 cases were documented.
Most drunken-driving suspects are picked up at the base gates, he added.
“They have to come through the gates and show their ID cards,” he said. “The chances of them making it through are slim to none. Our civilian guards are very good at what they do, and they catch a large number of drunk drivers at the gates.”
Others surface around the installation and in off-base traffic accidents, Clifford said. That typically happens when residents report a motorist driving erratically or Japanese police alert security forces about a situation outside the gates.
Those found driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could lose their licenses for up to a year, he said. It depends on the severity of the case, and commanders make the final call.
“We catch them in the process,” he added. “Then, we forward the paperwork off, and commanders handle punishment. We don’t get involved in that aspect at all.”
U.S. civilians are subject to punitive action by the Yokota Conduct Adjudication Program. Japanese employees picked up on base must be handed over to Japanese authorities, Clifford said.
Legally, a blood-alcohol content of .08 and above is considered DUI. When it measures .05 to .079, it’s driving while intoxicated. Base officials say DUI offenders could lose their licenses for up to two years. DWI violations can trigger a six-month suspension.
Drivers who register between .03 and .049 are suspected of DWDI (driving while drinking indicated) on base.
“In those cases, we feel their driving ability may be impaired,” Clifford said. “We can bring them in and make them sign a letter that’s basically a 12-hour driving suspension. It’s a safety issue, not only to keep them from driving on base but off base as well. It keeps them from getting a DUI.”
But when U.S. servicemembers or civilians are implicated for DUI off base, where .03 is the legal threshold, Japanese police determine whether the suspects are turned over to military officials.
“It can go either way,” Clifford said. “They can be prosecuted in a Japanese court for drunk driving. It doesn’t take much at all to get to .03.”
Another “You Drink & Drive, You Lose” campaign likely will be launched around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, he said, adding that efforts to combat the problem never cease.
“We always focus on DUIs. There’s just more emphasis during these two weeks,” Clifford said. “But we’re not going to ignore it now that this is over. Our goal is an entire year with no DUIs.
“We’re not saying, ‘Don’t drink.’ We’re saying, ‘Don’t drink and drive.’ There are too many opportunities for people to get rides around base to where they’re going. I encourage people to use them.”
Options include calling 225-RIDE, unit commanders and first sergeants. Duty managers at the Yokota Enlisted Club also will give people emerging from that establishment a lift home. In a worst-case scenario, Clifford said, security forces may be contacted.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs kills 16,000 people in the United States each year. More than 300,000 are hurt and 1.5 million arrested. One in three Americans will be affected by it in their lifetimes.
— For more information about the “You Drink & Drive, You Lose” program, visit www.enforcementsaveslives.com