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Penalized for pulling over, but the law is the law

King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amy Friedheim says you assume a risk every time you drive to a restaurant, bar or party, and have a drink. (AP Photo/File)

I got an email from a listener named “Michael” who writes:

This weekend, my wife’s friend pulled over because she realized that she was too drunk to drive, parked legally in a car stall and got a DUI because she fell asleep in the driver’s seat. So the idea that you can just pull over and be a responsible adult has gone out the window also. I do think that we need to be tough [on] drunk driving, but I think that there needs to be some human discretion involved.

I thought that was an interesting question – what if you’re driving along and you suddenly come to your senses and realize you’re too drunk to drive – and you pull over to sleep it off. Should you get a ticket?

We called Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amy Friedheim at King County Prosecutor’s office. She says the law is the law, and she makes no apology for a case like Michael’s friend.

“Here’s the thing: When you drive to bar, when you drive to a restaurant for dinner, when you drive to a party and at that party, or that bar or that restaurant, you know you’re going to be driving home. Then, you assume a risk with every drop of alcohol that passes your lips. You assume that risk. It’s on your shoulders. It’s your responsibility to not drive impaired.

“Now most of us, knowing that we’re going to drink alcohol and we’re going to drive – we lower that risk. We say, ‘I’m going to stop at one. I know that I’m going to drive for another two hours or three hours.’ So you substantially lower that risk that you’re going to be driving impaired. But the risk is on you because you’ve chosen to consume an impairing substance.”

So Friedheim’s message is – maybe getting nailed will send this woman a message so that next time she won’t drive drunk. Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t get the message.

“Yeah, I think that some of the studies that have come out have shown that a person who is arrested for driving under the influence has done it on average 80 times,” said Friedheim. “That’s an awful lot. But a first offender who is arrested, a lot of those offenders, if they’re spending a couple days in jail and they are dealt with harshly, but also fairly – a lot of those offenders aren’t going to re-offend.”

And just to put this issue in perspective, “I think the statistics show that a person is killed every 20 minutes on our roads and several hundred are probably injured in that same period of time,” said Friedheim. “That means every hour on our roads you have the kind of carnage in Boston.”

I also got a message from a listener who heard a car alarm across the street, and then saw a man get out, while a female with him sat in the driver’s seat and put something up to her lips repeatedly until the alarm stopped. Then the man got in and they drove off.

So much for the ignition interlock. But Friedheim said the devices are getting better.

“There are now interlock ignition devices that are set up with cameras. It’s going to take a picture of whoever is blowing into it.”

Bottom line: there is a law against being in control of a vehicle and impaired, if parked improperly. But hey, just don’t drink alcohol before you drive!

After all, there are lots of drinks that are very elaborate and perfectly delicious that the bartender can prepare without alcohol.

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