There is no excuse for driving drunk

Former acting director of the State Planning Office, Richard Swanson Jr., was arrested in Waterville late Monday night and charged with operating under the influence.

In explaining himself to the Waterville Sentinel, Swanson acknowledged he “blew a 0.11 (blood-alcohol level),” but reminded the reporter that “there was a time when that wasn’t even over the limit.”

Yep. The law changed 23 years ago.

And, so what?

The current blood-alcohol limit is 0.08 percent, so “blowing” a 0.11 is driving drunk and a violation of state law, and for Swanson — a state official until Tuesday — to offer such a weak excuse is inexcusable.

One might argue that the 0.08 percent BAC is an arbitrary legal threshold, but it certainly seems reasonable, since accepted research proves that coordination decreases at that level, impairing our ability to drive safely.

We have no idea how much Swanson weighs, but a 160-pound man reaches a BAC of 0.11 percent somewhere between four and five drinks in an hour. For a 200-pound man, BAC measures 0.11 percent somewhere between six and seven drinks.

By any measure, that’s too much to consume and drive.

At the request of Gov. Paul LePage, Swanson resigned his post in state government and will have an opportunity to respond to the criminal charge in district court in May.

The court of public opinion, however, has already reached its verdict.

Alcohol is legal for anyone over 21 years old, and there’s no reason a person of legal age shouldn’t drink as they please. However, with so many options available to people to avoid getting behind the wheel after a few drinks — designated drivers or cab rides among them — there is no acceptable excuse for driving drunk.

Fortunately, Swanson didn’t injure anyone, but it’s worth noting that, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, “drunk driving causes more deaths and injuries than any other violent crime.”

In Maine, since 1995, more than 700 people have died in car accidents in which at least one of the drivers had a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Thousands more have been injured.

That’s a lot of pain and destruction.

As one person commented on the Sentinel report on Swanson’s resignation, “It really is quite simple to avoid being arrested for OUI. Don’t drive at all if you have been drinking.”

Precisely.

Let’s remember that OUI laws are not enforced solely to punish drunk drivers. They’re enforced to protect the rest of us traveling along our roads.

? ? ?

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services received 25 fresh reports of possible welfare fraud Monday, all received through the agency’s online reporting portal.

The reports, the Sun Journal was told, were prompted by our coverage in Sunday’s newspaper of widespread abuse of our welfare system and electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.

We thank you for reading that coverage, with special thanks to those who took the time to report potential fraud.

In case you missed it, the reporting hot line is 1-866-348-1129 or www.maine.gov/fraud.

Every time someone defrauds DHHS, they are stealing public funds. Taxpayers have an obligation to each other to protect their collective tax money and report possible fraud.

If you know something, do your part to report it.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

 's picture

The problem with the legal

The problem with the legal limit is that it exists. After a few drinks, no one has the ability to judge if they're over the .08 limit. Therefore I think it should be reduced to .02, meaning after one drink and you're done drinking. That would allow people to have a cocktail before dinner, or even a glass of wine with dinner, but that's it. That should make the restaurants happy, and the roads safer.

RONALD RIML's picture

And those are

And those are public records for you to expose? - or is this simply one more example of you being the unprincipled person we've always supposed you to be, Rob....

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Totally uncalled for.

Bringing his family into this? Who the hell do you think you are?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

That's oBAMa speak. His wife

That's oBAMa speak. His wife is already in the process of trying to have government dictate what kids eat in school. If a person can handle two drinks or three drinks, if they check in at .07 they are legally sober and should not be hassled. I'll bet you get more than .02 out of that Kool-Ade you drink.

RONALD RIML's picture

Don't bet

Don't bet the Treasure Chest on it, Pirate.....

They are not "Legally Sober" - Rather, there is a legal presumption that they are not under the influence.

They can, in court with proper evidence and testimony, be proven under the influence.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

No more than two dubloons on

No more than two dubloons on that one.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Like school lunches can't be made better?

Or healthier? Wow.

Hip people get it. Ubhip people clearly do not. Michelle Obama really cares about kids:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CoLK0-Maks

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

So, having an opinion that

So, having an opinion that differs from yours qualifies a person for being unhip, eh? Had no idea it was that easy.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

If you're against her wellness programs . . .

. . . yes, you are unhip. Tragically so, medically speaking.

But at least you let my spelling error go. I know how the parrot hates being called "ubhip."

Are you looking up recipes yet for the crow you'll be eating in November? . . .

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The parrot thought it was

The parrot thought it was some secret code word, cuz he asked me what pihbu meant. Crow in November? Not really. I've already resigned myself to oBAMa being re-elected. My faith in the American voters is right down there with my belief that the DOW will ever see $14k again. The beauty of an oBAMa second term is that at some point somewhere in his sixth year, he's going to own everything that's going wrong and there'll be no blaming Bush for any of it, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Sorry to pile on.

The Dow at it's highest since 2008. It's just shy of a 13,000 now. Yes, facts are stubborn things.

http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/17/markets/stocks/

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Let me know when it hits

Let me know when it hits $14,000. Until then, you post has little validity other than a little oBAMa horn blowing. Which is your inalienable right to do, of course.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Funny you should (foolishly) mention the Dow

The Dow is kicking butt under Obama. It's up 60% since Bush left office. But don't believe me, just read that liberal rag, the Wall Street Journal, owned by uber-liberal Ruport Murdoch. (Really, this is too easy, man.)

http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2012/01/23/the-stock-market-loves-presid...

However, no, I am not impressed with Obama's budget, er, campaign document. The fact that he'll add $5 trillion to the national debt in his first four years, where Bush added a previous record of $3.4 trillion in his arduous eight is, in fact, depressing -- and a total contradiction of Obama's '08 campaign promise. But the GOP (false) god of Reagan is the one who set our country on this seemingly endless course of supply-side economics. Remember that it was George H. W. Bush who, in 1980, coined Reagan's economic policy proposals as disastrous "Voodoo Economics." Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? . . .

Our -- our being members of both parties, and all of America -- only budgetary hope these days is a Dickensian deus ex machina. And back to Bush Sr., via Dana Carvey -- "Ain't gonna happen."

Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor did it fall in one. As the Grateful Dead sang, "I may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I'm enjoying the ride."

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Funny you should go into a

Funny you should go into a scripted Jack Black routine every time someone posts anything that just isn't quite consistent with your perception. Ted Nugent said it best when he said, "Reasoning with a liberal is like trying to pick up a turd by the clean end".

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Jack Black? *barf*

No way. Hawkeye Pierce, with a dash of Fletch and a sprig of Tripper from "Meatballs" is what I (futilely) strive for.

I can't wait till the Dow hits 14k AND Obama gets reelected. You'll be having the Crow & Comeuppance Buffet.

Btw, your turd line is old and tired. You've used it scores of times, and simply need new material, man. Desperately.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Did you like Fletch? I found

Did you like Fletch? I found it disappointing on many levels. Think my expectations might have been too high coming off of the National Lampoon films.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Never replace what works.

Never replace what works. It's only the truth. But, I digress; no $14,000 DOW this year; oBAMa will be re-elected for reasons previously stated in a previous post. You think I'm gonna eat crow when I got a parrot perched next to me? Yikes, you should see the look on his face when I said that.

 's picture

Don't be so harsh on poor

Don't be so harsh on poor paul, FOX News and the RNC hasn't has time to furnish him with new material.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Actually, I get a great deal

Actually, I get a great deal of my material from the Huff and Puff Post.

Nick Gagnon's picture

drunk?

Drunk = Affected by alcohol to the extent of losing control of one's faculties or behavior.
By saying a BrAC of 0.08 is not drunk you COULD be correct or not. Depends on who you are talking about. One person could be effected by the alcohol differently than another. Someone that drinks all the time may be "drunk" at 0.15 while someone that does not often drink would be drunk at 0.05.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Where's Bill Clinton for this one?

It depends on what the definition of (drunk] is.

My point was the power of language. "Drunk" is a far more visceral word than "impaired," and especially and "cell-phone-using."

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Cell phones are easily as big a problem.

I will not condone drinking and driving. However, 0.08 isn't drunk. It is legally impaired. 0.11 is getting closer to drunk, but still not there yet. To paraphrase Justice Stewart, I can't define drunk, but I know it when I see it. But the language matters. Forever forward, Swanson, Jr. will have his Google search define him as 'drunk.' The price one pays, yes. But a terrifying price nonetheless for those of us who can honestly say we've (wrongly) gotten away with it one time or another in our pasts. (Let me guess: I am the only one here. Sure.)

Yet millions of drivers are using cell phones everyday, everywhere -- right now -- to gab, text and play [Stupid] Birds, when the NTSB, using the same science methods they used to determine the 0.08 legal limit, clearly states that using a cell phone or other similar device at the wheel is identical in risk as an 0.08 BAC. Yet if you get caught cell-phone-using and driving, your life isn't ruined by the social taboo of cell-phone-using while driving. Drunk driving is a far worse charge in the eyes of public opinion, yet cell-phone-using and driving is just as bad. So many indignant people in the world in cases like this, yet they'll be on their cell phones in their cars later this morning. I (don't) love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

Having been rear-ended recently by an unrepentant texter, I say ban the damn things in the car. (And in the supermarket, the airplane, the subway . . .) The NTSB agrees -- scientifically.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-12-13/cellphone-driving-b...

And cripes, how many people, especially seniors (no offense, AARP), are driving around with a literal pharmacopeia coursing through their veins in this pill-popping, Soma-taking society? (Huxley's Brave New World, anyone?)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You had me hooked until you

You had me hooked until you started ragging on the old folks.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

The Senior Lobby speaks.

And I listen. I'm not after seniors in particular in my rant. But almost all seniors I know are on a litany of (legally prescribed) pills to make the Golden Years a little less rugged, including psychotropics and painkillers. But okay, I shouldn't have used 'especially.' However, it's clear that pills are being gobbled daily by the masses -- and pushed by too many doctors and Big Pharma. (Just look at the ubiquitous and nefarious TV ads.) And people are driving on 'em every day.

My ultimate point is that there are too many distracted or impaired drivers on the road, period. We lose sight of the fact that the most dangerous thing most people typically do in a day is drive a vehicle. Approximately 40,000 deaths a year on average result from auto crashes, which is the number one killer of people ages 2-34.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

We agree on all points. Many

We agree on all points. Many of the oldsters are taking pills for blood pressure, diabetes, and all those other ailments and curses that seem to afflict the oldsters. As the great Betty Davis once said, "Getting old isn't for sissies". I, personally, would rather have a 70 year old geezer who took his medications that morning, driving towards me than have an 18 year old airheaded bimbo driving behind me while she was texting. But, that's just me.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

If only there was a pill...

to make us all smarter. Gee, but then we wouldn't be here, would we.

But you are right about the seniors. I am one, so I should know. Most of my friends (all 2 of them, in fact) drive while barely being able to see over the steering wheel. You've seen them I'm sure. Looks like the car is being driven by a fluffy white dog hanging on for dear life. Just the top of its head showing. And then you get four of them in the same beige sedan and they are all yacking it up and then they wonder where the hell they are and why are they there and why that rude man with the smashed in rear end is yelling at them.

Half of them are blind. Half are clueless. I used to belong to both halves until I had my cataract operation.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yeah, but I'd still rather

Yeah, but I'd still rather have a car full of blue hairs behind me than a carload of 16 year olds. The odds of surviving the blue hairs are better.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

In the words of Robin Williams:

I will now compare and contrast Jesus and Spider Man.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Jesus walked on water because

Jesus walked on water because he could; Spider Man did it because he couldn't swim.

Bob Woodbury's picture

"...0.08 isn't drunk."

Who died and made you the judge?

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Well . . .

If I told you where the body is, I could get in trouble. Never mind the extension cord running to that rusty freezer in my back yard, it's nobody's business.

My opinion stems from, ah, er, ummm . . . extensive zymological research and rigorous testing, Bob. You wouldn't understand.

How 'bout a Fresca? ("I've sent boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. Felt I 'owed' it to them." -Judge Smails)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Which movie?

Which movie?

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Caddyshack -- Ted Knight at his best

Best golf movies ever: Caddyshack.

Worst golf movies ever: Caddyshack 2.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Isn't it amazing how the

Isn't it amazing how the sequels of most great films turn out to be turkeys.

Bob Woodbury's picture

I understand.

Completely.

 's picture

"Every time someone defrauds

"Every time someone defrauds DHHS, they are stealing public funds" Why doesn't this apply to Speaker Nutting? Is a million dollar not worth the effort?

RONALD RIML's picture

Old Saying

You can always steal more money with a fountain pen than with a gun.....

But who has a fountain pen any more??

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"Hey, that's one of them rare

"Hey, that's one of them rare Waterman's Lugers", sang the parrot after his fourth sip of White Zinfandel, his favorite intoxicant.

RONALD RIML's picture

Kendall would

Kendall would be proud of the Parrot...

(Sans the 32 round snail drum magazine)

You should see the 'Artillery Model' disguised as a writing quill :0

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Nice stuff.

Nice stuff.

RONALD RIML's picture

I had the whole rig..

I had the whole rig at one time...

Artillery, holster w/ attached stock, snail drum magazine, loading tool... It looked B-a-a-a-d!!! Also both 30 cal and 9mm American Eagles from way back when (that 9 was rare!!) along with all a bunch of average stuff. That was 30+ years ago. Much less paperwork on rare books now; it's all gone ;)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Another piece of Americana

Another piece of Americana fallen by the wayside. Saddening.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Man, you've really got a hot

Man, you've really got a hot nut for him, don't you?. A little 'personal' vendetta, perhaps?

Bob Woodbury's picture

I agree.

However, I believe Mr. Nutting was fined a considerable amount which either has been paid or is in the process of being paid. If I am correct, he has paid what the courts said he must pay and is now even. If I am incorrect, I apologize. Again, I agree with what you are saying.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Never apologize for being

Never apologize for being correct, and you ARE correct, but some continue to remain blind to those facts.

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