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Re: Understanding DUI's 101

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An earlier post told of a Kentucky tow operator recently injured while on a winch-out call during the early AM hours. Once the car was out, the motorist jumped into the vehicle, slammed into reverse and backed into him. Based on the time of early morning hours and the circumstances that got the motorist into the ditch in the first place, it's my guess that the motorist may have been DUI and was attempting to depart so to not be arrested for DUI. So, I went into my cop stuff and dug out these simple bits of info as a quick, "DUI Recognition 101", to the dangers of working night-time hours.  According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 31% of fatal drunk-driving accidents occur on the weekend, and the highest number of drunk drivers on the road at any given time are the hours between midnight and 3 a.m. Fatal crashes are four times higher at night than during the day.  Here's a quick look at what it takes to achieve a certain level of intoxication. For example: A 175-pound (average size) male will reach +/- levels of intoxication after consuming:


7-shots       .08%      Symptoms:  Impairment of Speech, vision hearing and reaction time                      


9-shots       .13%      Symptoms:  Seriously impaired physical control, problems with vision and balance   


11-shots     .18%      Symptoms:  Dysphoria take over                                                             


14-shots     .23%      Symptoms:  Unable to walk without help, potential of blackout                   


What that means is, when you're called out to change a tire for a random motorist at 0200 hours, Your first hurdle is to arrive at the call's location without colliding with a DUI in traffic. Then, when you show up and they're standing outside their car, there's a good chance your customer may be intoxicated, but they're typically not classified (at that moment) as a DUI, but only an intoxicated person in public. Now that you're out of your tow truck, you're boots to the ground and exposed to vehicular traffic as a pedestrian worker. Your job is to complete the service call while keeping an eye on the motorist. But, at some point, you'll have to ask yourself ... "Do I send them on their way", thinking (or knowing) they just might be intoxicated? Consider the liability? When working those midnight to 3 AM hours on the highway or city streets, every call has potential to get you hurt because you'll possibly be in the presence of an intoxicated person. While we towers aren't LE, we can at least understand the potential danger scenarios that go well beyond daylight hours. Know this going in and change your safety mindset.


Your best safety offense ... work whatever call you're tasked with quickly and get back to your facility.     R.

Edited by rreschran
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Randall C. Resch

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A lesson that can be learned from that Kentucky story: if you arrive on the scene of a winch-out call and the vehicle operator appears impaired, go ahead and call the police.  Depending on how incident management is done in your area, you may lose the call to the next rotation truck or however your local system works, but you won't be putting a drunk back on the road after he has clearly displayed he is incapable of safely operating his vehicle.  That "quick cash" in your pocket is not worth the life of some innocent person(s) down the road when they meet up with this idiot.


I get flagged down by apparent drunks to pull their vehicles out of ditches, high-centered on curbs/medians, etc. and I refuse every single one of them.  Let them flag down a cop.  If they are clearly, obviously impaired, I'll call a cop for them.  They don't need my help, I'm a wrecker driver, not a substance abuse counselor.  You don't even have to get confrontational with them.  You CANNOT predict how someone that is drunk or high will react, other than you can predict it will NOT go well.  I have flat out lied to them - my winch is broken.  Let me call another truck that can help.  Roll the window up, call the law.



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Randy and Richard,


Both great replies. I agree with your assessment Randy, most likely a DUI or at least attempting to flee before law enforcement happens along.


Here in Pennsylvania we are not permitted by law to do a winch out without first notifying law enforcement of the call. Many towers still do and risk getting in trouble themselves. Our laws allow for a DUI even within the boundaries of private communities (home owners associations, apartment complexes, etc) or even in your own driveway. If for any reason we believe the vehicle was driven from a public roadway (including within gated private communities) we are to notify law enforcement and wait for their response or confirmation they are not responding before doing the winch out.


So, obviously a U-Haul stuck in the mud trying to get close to the house or an old car in the backyard would not require a call to report, a car stuck on the side of someone's private driveway heading inward from the road would. It can be tricky deciding which calls to report and which to proceed with without notification to the police.


Randy, this subject goes hand in hand with your other post about confrontational situations. It is important for towers o not be confrontational when responding to these calls because as Richard said in his post above, we have no idea how an intoxicated or agitated person will respond to being told we have to wait for law enforcement. My method of avoiding confrontation was usually to call law enforcement before I even responded when it was apparent they should be called (located on a public roadway for example) so that we could arrive on scene within minutes of each other. This has worked well for me over the years. As for being flagged down, I would engage the motorist and tell them I had to check in with my dispatch, then call law enforcement with them out of ear shot. If they deemed a response necessary I would stall the motorist until they arrived by collecting their info, payment details, doing a scene assessment and so on. I could really drag it out if needed.


That said, we do have to be selective in how we proceed because once we begin to provide, or appear to provide service we become liable and complicit in the results of our actions as well as the actions of the stuck motorist. They will be perceived as our customer and as such our responsibility.


Last thought, and perhaps the most important yet disturbing. Although we are not trained impairment recognition experts some courts have wanted to treat us as such. I am defending a case as the towing expert where a tower has been sued civilly because they released a vehicle to a person that then later killed someone with it in a DUI crash. So, if in doubt, pass on the call. The potential profit is not worth all the legal liability you may expose yourself and your company to.

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