Don’t Be a Drunk Driver Like Me

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More

Photo by Flickr user Luis Miguel Justino.

[Originally published on Monday, April 7, 2014.]

There is nothing more sobering than the white flags of your exhale at 2 a.m.; the empty feeling of transforming from person to proof of bad choices. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving statistics, 89,256 drunk driving arrests were made in Texas in 2012,  38 percent of all total traffic deaths were related drunk driving in that same year.

Statistics are hollow things until you are in a holding cell playing every inmate’s favorite game, “So…why you in here?” Statistics are intangible until you are driving your boss around, forced to blow into your breathalyzer before turning the ignition.

Fiesta celebrations are upon us. Alcohol consumption will spike in the city for 18 days from April 10-27. Let my story serve as your deterrent to driving while under the influence, let my arrest prevent yours.

I was arrested three months ago on January 6 while driving through Castle Hills after drinking with some friends at Korova. I cried for a bit in the back of the cruiser, but later had some nice conversation with the officer. We chatted about music and perks of the job. I blew .09, which is .01 above the legal limit.

I spent nine hours in a holding cell with one woman charged with a stabbing, one nailed for shoplifting, and another charged with housing a fugitive. One of the guards recognized me from frequenting HiTones. He wanted to know if I was going to the show on Tuesday. At one point, I was escorted to a tiny, bricked room where a Bexar County employee proceeded to order breakfast and unwrap birthday presents in front of me rather than discuss my case. I stifled the screams clawing their way up my throat. “Sorry ma’am, can’t help you,” was the only answer to all of our questions. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it, and that is only the beginning.

There are things I started to miss.  This is the order in which I started missing them: Chapstick. Toilet Paper. Pride. Dog. Boyfriend. The ability to run.

The entire experience gave me a new appreciation for Orange is the New Black.

After two frustrating court dates followed by “serious discussions” with both my boss and mother, I accepted a plea deal: a $500 fine, plus 48 hours of community service, an interlock system with camera installed in my car for six months, three DWI impact courses and probation for a year. The charge is a class B misdemeanor. A DWI is a class B misdemeanor as well, but the idea is to alleviate some of the stigma associated with a DWI conviction.

The camera (upper left) and breathalyzer installed in Melanie Robinson's car. Photo by Melanie Robinson.

The camera (upper left) and breathalyzer installed in Melanie Robinson’s car. Photo by Melanie Robinson.

Below are the expenses I have incurred thus far. Bail – $500. Tow truck – $200. Fine – $500 plus court costs. Lawyer’s fee – $500 (is heavily reduced). Breathalyzer with camera: less than $90/month per month for six months = $540. New drivers license – $30. DWI impact classes – $50 per class, of which I have to take three.

TOTAL COST: $2,420.

The most difficult part of the process isn’t the cost, though. It’s coming to terms with the fact that this was my fault.

About a year ago I lost one of my former students, Brandon. He was riding his bike to the ice cream truck and was hit by a drunk driver. It was 5 p.m. The driver was 16 years old. Brandon was six. Brandon was all I could think about in those first few hours while I stewed in jail. Then I thought of the driver. I am grateful I didn’t hurt anyone other than myself with my poor choices. But that’s no excuse. It just means I was lucky. Every day I feel guilty.

San Antonio police and their counterparts in surrounding towns and suburbs will be on a mission during Fiesta to cut down on drunk driving and thus prevent tragic, alcohol-related accidents and deaths. In 2011, Bexar County adopted the no-refusal program, in which warrants are requested to draw blood for all drunken-driving suspects who refuse to take a field sobriety test and submit to a breathalyzer. Advice from my lawyer:

“If you get stopped, be polite (and) ask to speak to an attorney, refuse to blow, refuse all tests and don’t answer any questions without an attorney present … they’ll arrest you but the less evidence they have against you the better it looks for your case.”

Take it from me: Don’t chance it. Don’t put yourself in the position where your only choice is a field sobriety test or a trip to jail. There are ample alternatives to avoid the legal, moral and financial pain that comes with a DWI. Among your choices:

While I would like to see more of an effort on behalf of the event itself to prevent driving after it promotes drinking so heavily to its patrons, it is ultimately up to the individual. Seek out other forms of transportation if you will be drinking. Be smart about it and be safe.

*Featured/top image: Photo by Flickr user Luis Miguel Justino.

Related Stories:

A Booth with a View: Chicken Dances, Drunks and (too much) Big Red

While Others ‘Fiesta’, San Antonio Cops Keep Things Cool

From Broadway to the Bonham: San Antonio’s NYC-Style Entertainment

Fiesta on the San Antonio River’s ‘Garbage Reach’

14 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Drunk Driver Like Me

  1. Sorry but this is a reality we have to confront when we choose personal transportation over everything. Inadequate bus lines and alternative transportation.

  2. Seriously. Don’t.

    It’s not everyday that someone writes publicly about their own mistakes (it’s usually about someone else’s). Melanie Robinson is a brave lady. Drunk drivers suck (an immeasurable amount) and I’m so glad that she’s not one anymore. “Let my story serve as your deterrent to driving while under the influence, let my arrest prevent yours.”

    Also, she’s one of the best Saturday night dates in town – and inexpensive, cause she only orders water.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I think that San Antonio (and many other sprawling cities in Texas) has an incredibly screwed up alcohol culture that compels bars to turn a blind eye to the potentially lethal combination of patrons who drive, have one too many, and feel they have no other way to get home. I no longer live in San Antonio but every time I come home I struggle to come to terms with what used to be normal to me- nightlife that requires cars but then involves heavy drinking. Sure, there are great parts of the city where people can bike and walk to go out (that’s where I frequent), and plenty of people carpool with friends, but let’s be honest- tons of people drive buzzed or drunk to bars all over the city. Diagnosing the problem is the first step, but what are the solutions? Ridesharing and cabs are a start, but are they enough? What about better public transportation? Fiesta is a great time for the city to have a conversation about the DUI problem that goes beyond arrests and no refusal and addresses realistic, innovative, citywide solutions.

  4. A couple more options: Don’t drink (yes, that is an option). Or don’t drink so much and ride your bike!! I hope this article gets lots of shares. Thanks for writing it.

  5. Thanks everyone for your feedback! MM – especially good points. I think we definitely need to focus on better public transportation. There are so many more options in places like Austin for example. Drinking is so heavily promoted in the performance art scene that I am finding it very difficult to even be near it anymore.

  6. Wow. Thanks for sharing your story. I have almost the identical story. I’m a young female, and 3 years ago I got a DWI after leaving Korova and dealt with everything you did. I can relate 100%. Oh, the embarressment of explaining the breathylizer when getting my oil changed… It was a blessing in disguise, for me. Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *