PLR 22-074 – PMV-4 Mishap Claims One Soldier's Life
A 24-year-old Sergeant assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, died in a PMV-4 mishap 16 July 2022 in Bell County, Texas, at 0200 local. The Soldier was drinking at a pool hall with four other Soldiers from his unit. As the Soldier attempted to leave, one of the other Soldiers tried to stop him but was unsuccessful. The intoxicated Soldier began driving eastbound in the westbound lane of the highway, when he collided head-on with a civilian vehicle. Texas Department of Public Safety (TPDS) State Troopers responded to the mishap. The Soldier and the two rear-seat passengers in the civilian vehicle were pronounced dead at the scene. The civilian driver sustained non-fatal injuries and was transported to the local medical center. This mishap remains under investigation. The safety/unit points of contact are waiting for TDPS to release its final report.
Since 2017, the Army has lost an average of 35 Soldiers a year to PMV-4 mishaps. This mishap was the 29th PMV-4 fatality of FY22 and below the number of fatalities for the same time period last year.
Every day, about 32 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that's one person every 45 minutes. In 2020, 11,654 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths — a 14% increase from 2019. These deaths were all preventable.
How alcohol affects driving ability
Alcohol is a substance that reduces the function of the brain, impairing thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential to operating a vehicle safely.
As alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase. Alcohol is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. Then it passes into the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is metabolized by the liver. A person's alcohol level is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC. At a BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter (g/dL) of blood, crash risk increases exponentially. Because of this risk, it’s illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, except in Utah where the BAC limit is .05.
However, even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability. In 2020, there were 2,041 people killed in alcohol-related crashes where a driver had a BAC of .01 to .07 g/dL.
BAC is measured with a breathalyzer, a device that measures the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath, or by a blood test.
BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION IN G/DL AND TYPICAL/PREDICTABLE EFFECTS ON DRIVING
0.02 - Some loss of judgment; relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood.
Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target), decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention).
0.05 - Exaggerated behavior, may have loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, usually good feeling, lowered alertness, release of inhibition.
Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situations.
0.08 - Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired.
Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception.
0.1 - Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking.
Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately.
0.15 - Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance.
Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing.
Driving a vehicle while impaired is a dangerous crime. Tough enforcement of drunk-driving laws has been a major factor in reducing drunk-driving deaths since the 1980s. Charges range from misdemeanors to felony offenses, and penalties for impaired driving can include driver’s license revocation, fines, and jail time. It’s also extremely expensive. A first-time offense can cost the driver upwards of $10,000 in fines and legal fees.
Many states require offenders to install ignition interlock devices at the driver’s own expense. An ignition interlock device is a breath test device connected to a vehicle’s ignition. The vehicle cannot be operated unless the driver blows into the interlock and has a BAC below a pre-set low limit, usually .02 g/dL. NHTSA strongly supports the expansion of ignition interlocks as a proven technology that keeps drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.
Tips from NHST