NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- As Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) begin to submit leave requests in preparation for the upcoming holiday season, it is important to remember the many dangers that occur during this time of the year, especially when behind the wheel.
The holiday season often puts people in situations to enjoy alcoholic beverages, which could lead to bad decisions, like driving while impaired. Driving under the influence of alcohol, even under the legal blood alcohol limit, can cause injury or death, and impact the families, friends, and careers of those involved.
Chief Hospital Corpsman John Watkins, George Washington’s drug and alcohol program advisor (DAPA), shares what driving responsibly means.
“To me, driving responsibly is pretty much making sure that you can operate the vehicle safely,” said Watkins. “Not just for yourself and your loved ones, but for everyone that’s on the road as well. When you are ready to get behind the wheel, make sure there are no drugs or alcohol in your system that can affect your ability to drive. Be aware of what you’re putting into your body and how it will affect you.”
The leadership of George Washington encourages driving responsibly, and provides a way to enforce that belief.
“The command provides Safe Ride, which is a program offered by the Chiefs Mess,” said Watkins. “It’s provided through the Uber application and the Chiefs Mess pays for your safe ride home and you pay us back what you spent. We give you two pay periods to do that. Do not be afraid to pick up your phone and call your department head to get a ride home.”
Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Mckenzie Rhymer, Safety Department’s leading chief petty officer, ensures that everyone is aware of the Safe Ride program throughout the command.
“The command ensures Safe Ride cards are issued during the first week of command indoctrination for E-6 and below,” said Rhymer. “All department and division chief petty officers and leading petty officers are educated on the program. All hands shall maintain a safe ride card on their person and report the loss of cards. It is highly encouraged that all Sailors use the Safe Ride program if needed. There will be no reprimand for using the Safe Ride program.”
According to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, in the United States, approximately 28 people die per day from car accidents as a result of drinking alcohol.
“The safety of others depends on you when you are behind the wheel,” said Rhymer. “By not being a responsible driver you can hurt or kill others and yourself.”
According to a 2015 Fleet and Marine Corps Health Risk Assessment Annual Report, three percent of respondents indicated they had driven after having too much to drink.
“In the Navy, we can hold you accountable for drinking and driving just like any violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” said Watkins. “You can go to court-martial, which can result in a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge. On average these issues are handled at the [non-judiciary punishment] level, where traditionally you would get 45 days restriction and 45 days probation, reduction in rank, and half month’s pay for two months.”
Watkins believes that the best way to deter Sailors from drinking and driving is for them to hold each other accountable and be honest with their shipmates.
“Just make sure you know your limits and don’t be afraid to stand up to someone else [who is drinking too much],” said Watkins. “Trust me, I’d rather a Sailor hate you for putting him on the spot and saying you had too much to drink, you have to take a cab home, then you not saying anything and him not being at work the next day.”
For more information about resources, questions, comments or concerns regarding responsible use of alcohol, George Washington Sailors can contact Watkins at (757) 534-1062 or in room 240 on the Floating Accommodation Facility.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.