A few years ago, my brother-in-law Paul, a Washington, D.C. attorney, drove down to Georgia with his girlfriend to spend the 4th of July weekend with his family in Atlanta. We all had a great reunion and BBQ at his son’s house and then my wife and I headed back home to Flowery Branch. Next morning, he called up explaining that the younger generation had partied until 3 a.m. and were all still in bed, so could they hang out with us? I told him “Sure but hurry up because we’re going sailing.”

It was a perfect day out on the lake, not too hot with just the right amount of wind and relatively few power boats to throw wakes and make noise. We sailed, anchored, swam, and enjoyed a few beers. Then we sailed home happily tired. After a light dinner, we said our goodbyes and they departed for Buckhead. About five minutes later our doorbell rang, and he was back, saying “Guess what? You have overnight guests!”

Don't drink and drive symbolIt seems that they had just gotten into their car when there was a rap on the window. He opened it and my neighbor was standing there and said, “If you’ve had anything to drink, don’t start that engine!” The Sheriff’s SWAT team had set up a “Drunken Driver Sting” checkpoint right down the road. They do this on a regular basis, not only to catch drunk drivers, but to keep the public mindful that “If you drink, don’t drive!”

We live on a peninsula, with only one road in and out, so Paul would have been pulled over. There was no way to avoid it. My neighbor was coming home and had seen the flashing blue lights reflected off the trees up ahead, so he pulled off on a side street and parked in a vacant lot, then made his way home cross country through the woods!

Paul knew that he was at least marginal as to his alcohol level, so wisely decided not to take the chance of driving.

The only problem was that we had not had overnight guests in more than a year and folks from up north get freaked out by palmetto bugs, dead or alive. So, while I ran interference upstairs in the living room, my wife hurried down to the guest room, quickly swept all the dead insects under the bed, put on fresh sheets and pillow cases, saw to it that there were clean towels in the bathroom and got out the guest toothbrushes, all in 11 minutes, start to finish!

Meantime, Paul felt like he had “dodged a bullet” because with the D.C. tags, and as an attorney who should know better, he knew that they would throw the book at him! He wanted to send my neighbor a case of Scotch to show his appreciation, but I told him ”No, I got it covered.”

Knowing my neighbor’s preferences were about the same as mine, I made sure a case of Bud and a gallon of spicy V-8 juice magically appeared on his front porch with a thank-you note the next day.

This brings back memories of my brother’s bar and marina on the Jersey shore. The town of Sea Bright is located on a peninsula with one road running the length of town with a bridge at one end and the mainland at the other. It was a typical shore location with many bars and restaurants doing a thriving business all summer, most of which involves a lot of drinking. Of course, if a Drunk Driver checkpoint is set up, word spreads immediately via the “Coconut Telegraph” to all the bars and they announce from the bandstands exactly where the checkpoints are located. Also offering free coffee to anyone who wants it as well as calling a taxi for those who don’t think coffee will help. Despite this, a lot of people get nailed just for being stupid!

The New Jersey State Police are good at what they do and have their SWAT teams organized to deal with it. Typically, they have traffic cones set up requiring you to drive a serpentine route through a supermarket parking lot to a lighted area where an officer checks license and registration and asks if you’ve had anything to drink. Meanwhile, there are officers out in the darkness observing people throwing beer cans, “roadie” cups, liquor bottles, and recreational drugs out of the car windows. These are picked up and when the car arrives at the final checkpoint, an officer will present the driver with a plastic bag, explaining “Excuse me, sir/ma’am, but you seem to have dropped these.”

They also have a couple of school buses on site, so if someone is barely over the limit, they can sleep it off for a while and be tested again. If they are below the limit, they still get a ticket but are allowed to drive home. If not, they get a free ride to the county jail and their car gets towed to the impound yard.

The bottom line is, if you drink, don’t drive, especially on what I call “Amateur Night,” (New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and the last workday before Christmas). Be safe out there!