John Curtas is …

Drunk Driving Dissertation

The only people who have never driven drunk, are those who don’t drink, or those who don’t drive. – ELV

ELV is taking credit for the above statement, even though the truth of it is known (and uttered at one time or another) by every judge, cop, prosecutor and defense lawyer in the land. Years ago, when we were sitting as an Alternate Municipal Court Judge in the City of Las Vegas courts, we heard many a drunk driving case. A decade before that, as a Public Defender and then a criminal defense lawyer, we represented hundreds of DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) cases. John A. Curtas has also driven while drunk on dozens of occasions…in at least four states he can think of. Only by the divine hand of Providence, karma, or just plain dumb luck, has he never been “pinched” for an offense.

Recently, several events have come before us which have made us re-think our social responsibility when it comes to this scourge of our roadways. Several friends have been pinched, and even the invincible ELV was recently stopped on west Desert Inn and asked to do a field sobriety test by Metro’s finest.

Our circumstance was embarrassing and inconvenient, but still relatively mild. We had finished a dinner at Sen of Japan with several friends, consumed probably 4 or 5 small glasses of sake. (As you know, sake is served in relatively small portions, but the average police officer doesn’t know this.) Upon leaving the restaurant around 9 pm, ELV engaged in his usual behavior: careening down the (relatively empty) boulevard at an excessive rate of speed, while trying to put on his seat belt as he was so speeding, while talking on his cell phone and fiddling with the radio — all done (as usual) after he forgot to turn on his headlights. As you might know, west Desert Inn Road is so well lit it is easy to forget it’s nighttime, and the steady, downward slope of the grade makes getting up and over the speed limit extremely easy.  Needless to say, the officer involved wasn’t interested in such salient facts. In fact, he couldn’t have been less interested than if ELV had started expounding on the various junmai daiginjos he’d been tasting.

The point is, Metro had more than enough probable cause to pull yours truly over. And if you were cruising down DI a couple of months ago, and you saw a dude in a white suit touching his nose and walking heel to toe, now you know the story. As an aside, ELV should mention he’s had several run-ins with Metro officers over the years, and always found them to be courteous and professional…even as they were trying figure out a reason to arrest him. This time, the officer involved said my horizontal gaze nystagmus was a bit shaky, but we both got so tired of me counting backwards correctly, he decided to give me a pass, but insisted I call someone to drive me home, and pick up my car in the morning. God bless The Food Gal®, because within fifteen minutes she got there and drove me home, with nary a snide remark snarled my way.

So aside from several friends actually getting arrested recently, we have personal experience with the stepped-up enforcement procedures our constabulary is undertaking these days. You’d have to be blind not to notice, but every night, every major east-west arterial (From Warm Springs to Lake Mead) is crawling with cops. This is a good thing. But not for the many of us who like to have one or two or three too many and then need a way home. (None of these remarks are directed towards those of you who like to drink yourself into oblivion on a regular basis. All any of us can do is pray you get help, and pray our paths don’t cross during one of your self-destructive binges.)

Back to the point. Drinking is fun. ELV likes to drink. He loves a good cocktail and really loves good wine. Drinking is relaxing and convivial. It can improve sex (sort of), and, if modulated correctly, improve one’s self-esteem. Without alcoholic beverages how else would some people ever get around to having sex? But enough about me.

The older you get, though (and if you fancy yourself a connoisseur of such things), you find that the alcohol (necessary though it may be), becomes an annoyance. Some nights I’d like to taste more and more drinks or glasses, but I am not interested in getting more and more buzzed. Age will do that to you. This is also a good thing. It means some of us no longer want to keep drinking to the point of real intoxication, even though we love to drink. (Had I taken a breathalyzer the other night, my guess is I would’ve blown about a .04-.05% BAC) So, ELV considers his drunk driving days to be behind him.

But maybe not. Who knows? The right company, the right party, a tough day at work, the right fight with the long-suffering Food Gal could lead me to do something stupid at any time. Which got me to thinking…and no, it didn’t hurt. Of course there are cab companies and services to drive you home if you have the presence of mind to call them (remember, you’re drunk and not thinking clearly). But who wants to fumble around waiting for a stranger to show up? Shouldn’t a mark of friendship and social responsibility be that we are there for the people we like/love to help them avoid putting themselves and others in danger…not to mention the criminal court consequences of being charged with an offense? Why don’t friends make themselves available to friends for rides home even though they aren’t out socializing with them?

Every public service announcement always shows groups at bars or parties where one sober person is there to chauffeur others home. Shouldn’t friends tell friends: “If you’ve had too much, call me and I’ll come get you.”? Don’t most of us have a network of folks with whom we could exchange phone numbers when one of us even thinks driving might not be advisable? Good god, all of us do. We simply have to make the commitment to be there for each other, even if one of us is fast asleep.

Naive? Perhaps, but ELV is putting his money where his mouth is on this one. If you are drunk, and can’t drive, and promise not to throw up in his car, ELV will come and get you. Just say: “I’m a friend of ELV and I need a ride,” and as long as I’m not drinking myself (admittedly, a rare occurrence), I’ll be there for you.

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8 Responses to Drunk Driving Dissertation

  • Excellently written and extremely generous to offer your services. I think you may have set yourself up for a very busy weekend, though.

    Good luck!

  • That is soooooooo nice of you. I will buy one more copy of “Eating Las Vegas” on Amazon hoping some of that money you would receive from my purchase will go toward your generous offer. Good luck!!!

  • That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said (or written) to me. I’ think I’ll buy more copies of the book too.

  • This was really deep. Its breathe taking to have read this on a public forum, from a person who is generally quite vain.

    I would have to agree that metro has been fair and professional, in my incidents at least, and have “let me go” on a few situations. If they didnt the courts were fair to fight.

    But to bad for the guy that got blasted at Costco. Still think he was part to blame fun packing heat while doing his bulk shoppping, but this isnt the blog for that manner.

    Its too bad for the times I(we) have drank and drove.
    Peace out.

  • Take it from me. Three stretched-out and reasonable pints; an hour pause; and a broken tail light makes for a low .06. And even when cops haul you in and say “you’re obviously not loaded, but …” — it still makes for a trip to the clink and a DWAI. And that will fuck your life up. Don’t ever drive with a whisper of alcohol on your breath or a faint taint in your blood. Plus, even if you have as little as a half of a glass of wine or low-alcohol beer in you and you are involved in an accident or other situation involving cops, you are instantly primed for fault/liability in a tort or transgression … no matter what lawyers say. So take a taxi always.

  • I’d just like to publish another alternative to calling ELV for a ride, the Designated Drivers service http://designateddriversinc.com/ , 456-RIDE.
    There is a fee, I believe $50, but they will drive you AND your car home, so for people who don’t like using cabs because they don’t want to leave their car at the bar, downtown, etc. it’s a good option. I’ve never used them personaly, but I work in bars and we’ve had them come in and give talks to the bartenders -to promote their services so I thought I’d throw that out there.

  • kudos john.. Its a $30 dollar cab ride from strip to Green Valley Ranch where I live.. Cheaper than two ridiculously priced cocktails at Wynn. Cheap insurance by any means.

  • Classy post, John. You haven’t written a more important one on this blog.

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