Yongsan checkpoints turn up the heat on drunken drivers
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. and South Korean officials have attributed an increase in on-base drunken driving arrests to improved enforcement.
More sobriety checkpoints have resulted in the higher arrest numbers, said Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, 8th Army spokesman.
In fiscal 2003, ending Oct. 1, 148 drunken drivers were caught, including 76 military personnel, 40 other status of forces personnel and 32 Korean nationals, he said.
These numbers represent a steady increase over the past three years. In fiscal 2002, garrison statistics show, 62 military personnel, 43 other SOFA personnel and 24 Korean nationals were picked up for driving under the influence. In fiscal 2001, the tally was 45 military personnel, 50 SOFA and 26 Korean nationals.
The 2003 increase was attributed to more random sobriety checkpoints by U.S. and South Korean law enforcement agencies.
Boylan declined to disclose how many on-post checkpoints are being used or the size of the increase.
Heightened awareness among security guards and different traffic patterns on post also contributed to the increase, Boylan said.
“We strongly encourage and recommend that if you are going out, you do the designated driver plan,” Boylan said. “Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive both on post and any town that you may be in.”
South Korea has a tougher standard than most U.S. states for drunken driving; .053 percent blood alcohol content is enough for an arrest. On U.S. bases in Korea the limit is .10 percent.
“This means that if someone is driving after just one or two drinks they are subject to being charged with driving under the influence,” Ricky Oxendine, Area II law and order officer, told the Morning Calm base newspaper.
South Korea enforces its drunken driving laws vigorously and has frequent road checkpoints at night. Police use a handheld sensor into which every driver must exhale.
U.S. soldiers also are required under South Korean law to submit to Breathalyzer tests if suspected of drunken driving.
An offender’s license is suspended for a year on the first offense; subsequent offenses are punishable by a five- year suspension. Offenses are reported back to the United States to a database that tracks drunken driving convictions.
Offenders also are referred to an alcohol abuse program. They must meet with the program’s clinical director.
“Bottom line, if you come out on the blotter for an alcohol-related incident, life as you know it will change,” said Greg Barisich, Yongsan Garrison’s alcohol and drug program clinical director, in the Morning Calm. “Many soldiers are reduced in rank, fined and even dismissed from the service because of an alcohol-related incident.”