The Sun News

Q&A with Lt. Bryan Hunter

City of Residence: Byron

Occupation: Byron Police Department

Q: The obvious: why shouldn’t people drink and drive?

A: It kills people. It kills people in a purely avoidable way.

Q: What are some of the statistics?

A: The latest figures we have from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are for 2013, and there were 1,179 traffic fatalities in the U.S. Thirty percent of those involved someone under the influence. That may not seem like a large number, but it is when you consider a good many people could be home this year with their families -- wives with their husbands, husbands with their wives, children with their parents, if someone hadn’t been drinking and driving and taken their life. Again, it’s a 100 percent avoidable situation. Not only are there the deaths, there’s the tremendous number of life-altering injuries that could be avoided.

Q: We think of drinking and driving as peaking during the holidays, is that the case?

A: They happen every day. People think of all the holiday celebration and parties, but it’s a problem year round. For one month, for last October, the 31 law enforcement agencies in the Middle Georgia Traffic Enforcement Network made 171 DUI arrests, 78 of those in Bibb County. If there’s any time factor involved, it would be that major traffic fatalities happen more at night. Another thing is seatbelt use goes down after 9 p.m. We do a lot of enforcement then. That involves children, too. They’re the innocent ones, and it’s up to adults to protect them.

Q: As a non-drinking motorist, what’s the best thing to do to avoid drunk drivers?

A: Buckle up, slow down, put your phone down and watch your surroundings. We often say the only thing separating you from another driver is a yellow line. It doesn’t do a very good job unless you’re paying attention.

Q: If someone sees a drunk driver, do you encourage them to call it in?

A: Yes, that’s a great idea. Call 911 and give them as much information as you can then follow the 911 operator’s instructions. We’ll try to get someone after them as quick as possible.

Q: You’ve talked about fatalities and injuries, what are other DUI related costs?

A: The estimated cost in 2010 for automobile accidents was $277 billion in damaged vehicles, property, legal fees, court fees, lost wages, medical coasts, insurance and related costs. For alcohol related crashes it was $49.8 billion.

Q: How about costs to a person convicted of DUI?

A: Right now, they say the national average is $10,000 by the time you get an attorney, pay court costs, fines, suffer lost wages and that sort of thing. Under Georgia law, the first offense is a minimum fine of $300 to $1,000, a one-year license suspension, and then a $210 license reinstatement fee. There are other aspects, like driving safety classes. There are stiffer fines and requirements for future offenses.

Q: How about a person having a drink or two, say over lunch. How does someone judge if they’ve had too much to drive?

A: That gets tricky, but if a person has a glass of wine or beer and that’s it, two hours later they should be OK. I’m not saying do that, there are factors like weight and health, general metabolism and tolerance to alcohol that have to be taken into account. If more than that or less time, it’s probably not OK.

Q: You mentioned the Middle Georgia Traffic Enforcement Network. What’s that and what’s your role in it?

A: It’s one of 16 traffic networks out of the Governor’s Office of Highway. Ours includes 12 counties, including Houston, Peach, Crawford and Bibb. I’m coordinator. We’re involved in enforcement, officer training and public education in all areas of traffic safety. We host meetings and road checks in each county to reduce traffic fatalities. We do public education and visit schools, too.

Q: A last bit of advice?

A: If we can’t prevent unsafe driving through education, we’ll certainly try to prevent it by enforcement. Just slow down. Don’t drink and drive. Wear your seatbelt. And don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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