True cost of a DUI

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Charles D. Kuhl
  • 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron Commander
What is the true cost of someone driving under the influence of alcohol? This question unfortunately has no simple answer. The expense of a DUI reaches far beyond any monetary value. It may be easy to calculate the monthly pay lost that often results when a commander signs the Article 15; but the cost starts long before standing in front of the commander's desk and will last long after.

Before getting behind the wheel after just a couple of beers, think about the panic you'll feel when you see the flashing lights in your rearview mirror.

Think about the stress you'll face when you must visit the first sergeant, squadron superintendent, squadron commander, group commander, vice wing commander and command chief to explain the plan you had that night, and why you deviated from your plan.

Think about how many times you will replay that night in your head and wish you'd have called Airmen Against Drunk Driving, a wingman or a taxi. Think about the additional burden placed on your peers who have to carry your workload while you go to your Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Treatment and Area Defense Council appointments.
For people whose primary duties involve operating vehicles, think about how you can't do your job for the next year because your driver's license will be suspended for at least that amount of time. Think about your lost freedom because you have to ask for rides to work or the base exchange.

Think about the trip with your supervisor to clothing alterations, the shadow on your sleeve where the stripe used to be and someone saying, "I thought you were a senior airman."

Think about what you're going to tell your family.

You can't even begin to calculate these emotional costs, but I'll use the wreck from my squadron that kicked off the 101 Days of Summer to calculate the manpower cost.

Most people have seen the silver Jaguar at the gate. While it was not a DUI, alcohol played a factor in that accident that left two of my Airmen clinging to their lives. I won't even venture to estimate the medical bills. Consider the time cost to the squadron: multiple trips to Frankfurt International Airport to pick up and drop off six family members, driving the relatives to and from hospitals in Trier and Bitburg multiple times each day, running errands to support the families, and leadership and peers visiting every day.

For the first 30 days of this incident, I estimate the squadron spent more than 2,000 hours in support of the Airmen and their families.

What about the impact to the mission? While the wingmen were doing an amazing job taking care of the Airmen, they were not able to accomplish their primary duties to the best of their abilities. With their minds on taking care of the hospitalized Airmen and their families, the loss of mission focus could have resulted in additional tragedies.

What if we didn't sweep the airfield well and a missed pebble damaged an engine? What if we missed maintenance checks on an aircraft system and it malfunctioned? What if an explosive ordnance technician missed training, yet responded to a suspect package? These are civil engineer examples - think about how your job could be affected by the manpower drain from a DUI or serious accident.

The bottom line is you can never calculate the true cost of a DUI. You can't put a price on stress, worry, embarrassment, shame, guilt and pain. You can't calculate the true mission impact, or second and third order effects from a DUI. You also can't calculate the true cost of a DUI if the life of an Airman, family member and friend is lost.