If he won't give you his keys, take his pants.  Hooray, responsibility! With Labor Day parties coming up, now is as good a time as any to remind everyone to drink responsibly. Not trying to be your mom or anything, but if you blow more than a .08, the penalty can be worse than a free ride in a cruiser and mandatory community service. Overwhelming legal fees, increased auto insurance rates, losing the right to drive your car (the horror!), and thousands of dollars in state assessed fees, among other things, are the punishments for driving while above the legal limit.

In Michigan, one sad story has served as a painful reminder about the need to pass the keys whenever necessary. On Tuesday, May 3, a software account executive named Thomas Wellinger crashed his 2005 GMC Yukon Denali into a 1999 Honda Accord, killing driver Judith Weinstein and her two sons, 12 year-old Alexander and 9 year-old Samuel. Wellinger?s blood alcohol level was .43 when it was measured after the accident ? more than five times the legal limit and a rate at which most individuals would be unconscious.

What was probably a case of a recently-divorced man drowning his sorrows resulted in not just one tragedy, but five: the end to the lives of Judith and her two sons, a grief-stricken widower in Gary Weinstein, and second-degree murder charges for Thomas Wellinger. Five lives ruined. 

Apparently, Wellinger isn?t even a bad guy. Although we instinctively want to vilify Wellinger, his neighbors and friends interviewed after the horrible incident portrayed him as a clean-cut guy with a good job, nice houses and cars, and a loving husband and father. Experts pinned him as a functional alcoholic; someone who has built up a tolerance to alcohol and drinks daily to avoid withdrawal symptoms, but also someone whose alcoholism does not prevent them from keeping a steady job or having a family.

A recent article in the Detroit Free Press examined metro Detroit?s drunken driving arrests from May 12-15, and they found some interesting things. Over 100 reports showed young people, elderly people, mothers with kids still in the car ? people at all levels of intoxication ? being pulled over at 9:30 in the morning or 11:45 at night. Sometimes they were on their way to work, sometimes about to pick up kids from daycare, or coming home after a night at the bar. Some of them were even drinking while driving, feebly trying to hide empty cans and bottles behind the drivers seat. Many were repeat offenders, but some weren?t.

For those of us who aren?t functioning alcoholics, it will take a blood alcohol level of a heck of a lot less than .43 for us to become dangerous behind the wheel. In fact, even if you don?t blow higher than a .08, cops can still write you a pretty expensive ticket at their discretion. A general rule of thumb (on the conservative side, but still a good rule) is that it takes one hour for a person to metabolize one serving of alcohol. And remember, one serving of alcohol is not a Long Island Iced Tea ? it?s 1.5 oz. of hard liquor, one 12 oz. bottle of beer, or a 4 oz. glass of wine.  

Do yourself and everybody else a favor ? make sure to have a designated driver this weekend.

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