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2006 lowest DUI/DWI numbers in 8 years

The number of Little Rock Air Force Base DUIs has decreased over the years. The chart above shows the trend of DUI numbers over a 10-year span.

The number of Little Rock Air Force Base DUIs has decreased over the years. The chart above shows the trend of DUI numbers over a 10-year span.

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Fiscal 2006 closed out last month with the lowest number of Driving Under the Influence and Driving While Intoxicated incidents since 1998.

With last years count at 20 for the year, officials are optimistic the numbers will fall even lower this year. The Air Force way of thinking has transitioned from reactive to proactive, reaching Airmen through various commander's calls, initiating the Wingman concept and encouraging Airmen to make plans before they drink.

"The key to cutting the number of DUIs/DWIs is preventative thinking," said Joe Ott, 314th Security Forces Squadron reports and analysis. "Our focus on DUIs/DWIs in the past was reactive - what should we do now that we've gotten three in a week - when it should be proactive. Now we focus on informing Airmen before they take that long weekend or head out for the holidays."

But holidays aren't the problem, said Mr. Ott.

"Many people would think that problems revolve around the holidays," he said. "But the truth is that there's no spike in DUI numbers during holiday seasons. It's pretty much even throughout the whole year." Historically programs such as Operation 40 Proof, as well as designated drivers at the club and unit parties have helped keep down the number of incidents.

Ten years ago, Little Rock Air Force Base officials distributed lists of designated drivers. That worked pretty well, said Mr. Ott. But it wasn't effective enough. Airmen, at the time, were reluctant to call their leadership for rides.

Shortly after, officials handed out key fobs (keychains) with numbers to call in the event Airmen needed a ride home. That didn't work so well, Mr. Ott said. Airmen didn't want to put bulky keychains on their key ring.

In the mid 90s, a designated driver list was given to command post to maintain. Airmen could call and request someone pick them up. But again, Airmen were worried that commanders would find out and that they would look down on them for drinking.

At the end of the 90s, a new program was implemented that allowed Airmen to call predesignated cab companies arranged by first sergeants. A voucher was then turned in. Problems with the program arose when Airmen began selling the vouchers and using the money on other items. After a small number of people abused the program, first sergeants looked for another approach.

Soon after, Airmen began the Airmen Against Drunk Driving program. Phone numbers for AADD were advertised all over base and encouraged Airmen to call if they needed a ride home.

Then a new perspective on the drinking and driving problem came. Why not hit Airmen up about it before they go out partying?

"After many years of programs that lacked notable results," said Mr. Ott, "our leadership started talking with Airmen more frequently, before they went out partying. Alcohol is liquid stupid; so how can we expect our Airmen to do the right thing after they're already drunk?"

In addition to AADD, Airmen began to see more emphasis on the dangers of DUIs/DWIs in commander's calls, the consequences of DUIs/DWIs on their Air Force career and were given new options (like the Wingman concept or calling a supervisor) to help cut back on the fear of retribution. Airmen also signed a statement of understanding to observe responsible alcohol consumption practices.

"With every commander's call talking about the problem and alternatives that are available to help prevent getting DWIs, it seems that the word has gotten out to our young Airmen," said James Yowell, 314th Airlift Wing ground safety manager. "We preach the adverse effects of getting a DUI to every new member of our command during their in-processing, to include their in-processing safety briefing. We also make sure that they know that there are alternatives to drinking and driving, like calling command post (987-3200), a friend, AADD (987-2233), or someone in their chain of command should a plan fail."

Not long after, officials began to notice a drop in DUI/DWI numbers.

The results speak for themselves, Mr. Ott said. In two years, the number of DUIs/DWIs has been cut almost in half. From 38 in 2004 to 20 in 2006, officials are finally seeing the results they want.

"One of the major factors that helped us reduce the numbers of DUIs reported here at Little Rock is the great support we are getting from our younger men and women," said Mr. Yowell.

"They've set the standard for others to follow," he said. "The group that is normally considered the most likely to get a DUI are single males, ages 19-25. Here, that age group has shown that this doesn't have to be the case as they have shown a drastic reduction in the number of DUIs that age group is involved in. Most importantly, our success is due to Airmen being good Wingmen and taking care of each other."

"If we remain proactive and keep stressing the importance of making plans before you drink, we can look forward to numbers a little lower this year," said Mr. Ott.

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