Walking the plank

A matter of thresholds

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In one weekend, law enforcement officials cracked down hard on drunken driving in Steamboat Springs and a lone arrest led to the majority of the headlines.

From Oct. 27 through Oct. 29, 385 people in Colorado were arrested by officers across the state for driving under the influence of alcohol. Grabbing most of the attention among the drunk-driving arrests was that of Denver Broncos quarterback Brian Griese.

Griese was stopped by a state trooper after he was allegedly speeding on a Denver interstate early in the evening on Oct. 28.

It was reported that the star quarterback failed a Breathlyzer test and was taken to a detoxification center.

It is sad that one caseGriese's overshadowed the other 384 arrests that were made across the state.

Yes, Griese is in the spotlight because he is a professional football player. But because he can throw a football farther than most of us or has the athletic ability to play professionally does that require that his arrest means more?

Does it mean that his arrest should be front-page news and make national headlines as it did when ESPN's "SportsCenter" reported the arrest?

Griese is not alone with the mistake he made that Saturday evening. On the same weekend he was arrested, 14 people in Routt County alone were arrested for allegedly committing the same crime.

Nine of the arrests were made when a checkpoint was set up by the Steamboat Springs Police Department.

Obviously, drunken driving in the county, across the state and the nation is something that we have not been able to find a solution that will take care of the problem.

Legislators in the nation's capitol believe lowering the alcohol standard is the way to go. In October, President Clinton signed a bill that lowered the national level to 0.08.

States across America have four years to lower their threshold from 0.10 to the lower standard. States that fail to do so will lose federal highway funds.

At the time the president signed the bill, he said the measure will save 500 lives a year.

In Colorado, the current threshold is 0.10, but the state does have a lower drunken driving level than most state do not have. In Colorado a person with a blood-alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.10 can be arrested for driving while ability impaired.

Will the lower threshold make a difference? After all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 5.5 million people drive drunk everyday.

In 1998 alone, more than 16,000 people died from alcohol related motor vehicle crashes.

The way to get to the heart of the matter is for people to realize that it is not OK to go out and have a couple of drinks at dinner or at a favorite watering hole and still expect to drive home.

After Griese was arrested, he responded to questions about the incident saying he had a "couple" of drinks at dinner. The test that he took showed otherwise. Griese had a blood-alcohol level of 0.149.

For Griese, who is listed at 215 pounds, to reach that level in two hours, he would have had to consume seven to eight drinks.

The scary part of the whole matter is how many people like Griese were arrested the same weekend who thought they had a "couple" of drinks and then decided to drive home.

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