Drunk Driver Hits … a Helicopter? It Happened in New Mexico.

drunk driver hits helicopterOkay, the helicopter was on the ground. There’s no record yet of a drunk driver taking out a helicopter in the air. But it’s still a strange story.

A rescue helicopter needed to land on Highway 566 near Gallup to pick up a rollover crash victim. It was a big operation – the road had to be blocked for miles in order to provide a safe landing for the copter. However, a driver who apparently had been drinking smashed through the roadblock and into the helicopter, rendering it useless for its rescue mission. The driver, one Glenn Livingston, also crashed into and disabled a fire engine.

No one was hurt, but the original victim was denied a flight to the hospital, and had to be driven by ambulance. A lot of expensive rescue equipment was taken out of action.

As always, whenever a report comes in of a non-fatal DWI crash we say, “It could have been worse.” And this one could have been. In addition to the lack of injuries, the person in need of help made it to the hospital.

But think of the lack of attention that would lead a drunk driver to plow through a barricade and drive with enough speed to cripple two large rescue vehicles. Those could have been any two cars or trucks on an occupied road – the driver was clearly not in a condition to notice.

Every year drunk drivers take lives and cause injuries. They also destroy property. Altogether, drunk driving costs the country about $132 billion a year. That includes funding for emergency personnel, OWI patrols, jails and prisons, courts, administrative costs, highway property damage, and in this case, a helicopter and a fire engine that had better things to do.

It’s worth noting that one anti-drunk driving measure – ignition interlocks – saves money.  An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the public saves 3 to 7 dollars for every dollar spent on ignition interlock devices for drunk driving offenders. In addition, ignition interlocks have been shown to reduce recidivism on average by 64%.

Every DWI incident in which no one was hurt is a lucky break. But it’s also a crime. Everyone on the road – and also our rescue equipment – deserve better than to be hit by a drunk driver.