Local services offer alternatives to driving drunk after night out

One year after being arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, David Berndt now knows that he should have thought things through.

Berndt and a neighbor were on their way to Jim’s Steakout after a night of drinking last August when he passed an Amherst police officer at 55 mph in a 40 mph speed zone. He was pulled over, failed every sobriety test and blew a .14 on the Breathalyzer.

Even now he kicks himself for his hubris in thinking he wouldn’t get caught.

“Since I was engaging in this risky behavior all summer, I trusted myself that I could drive appropriately and not get pulled over,” he said. “I knew that I was drunk, but I was so accustomed to being able to drive home all of the other times without getting pulled over so I thought to myself, ‘Hey, what’s one more time?’”

Many people have this same mind set when they get behind the wheel after drinking. According to www.alcoholalert.com, 38 percent of fatal car accidents in the U.S. in 2011 were alcohol-related. In 2007, over 28,500 arrests were made for DUIs in New York State alone, according to DUI-USA on drinkdriving.org.

Unfortunately for Berndt, this was the last time. His license was suspended for six months, and he faced almost $4,000 in fines and a bout of therapy sessions. He had just turned 21 that summer.

“My mom was the person that was most upset with me,” he said of the fallout. “My dad was disappointed but he told me that these things happen and it’s a life experience that you learn from.”

Many students at Buffalo State prefer to drink in safer environments, where they can sleep if they are too intoxicated to drive. Berndt actually went to a bar within walking distance of his house.

The issue of drunk driving arose when he and his neighbor wanted food from a restaurant.

What many students may not know is that there are services provided for just that occasion. Takeout Taxi Buffalo (takeouttaxibuffalo.com) is an affordable service that will order your food and drop it off at your front door from a selection of 30 different restaurants across the Greater Buffalo area.

There are even more safe alternatives to getting home after a night out.

A company called Designated Drivers of Buffalo will come pick you up and drop you and your car off at your home safely. Their service is targeted toward patrons who drove to the bar but are too drunk to drive home and would rather not leave their car parked elsewhere.

The service, however, can be pricey on a college student’s budget, with flat rates for non-members starting at $35 and then tacking on $3.50 per mile.

Taxicab rates are generally considerably cheaper.

After working in the hospitality industry for 15 years, Designated Drivers founder Michael Mulé saw many people being affected by the actions of drunk drivers.

“I saw a need because the reality is that people were driving drunk, and it was affecting not only the person driving, but (also) the families involved,” he said.

According to Mulé, the company is working on a student rate policy, but they do offer memberships at lower prices for frequent customers.

He also reasoned that the prices are higher than a taxi because two employees travel with each call in order to drive the customer’s car, too.

For students pinching their pennies, many still resort to the free “buddy system.”

A group of friends can work out where each person takes turns in being the responsible driver.

Many students’ parents would also be willing to drive and pick up their kids than have them drive drunk.

“There would be nothing in the world she could ever do that would be more disappointing than to find out she put herself in harm’s way,” Candice Black said about her daughter drinking and driving. “Not only that, but it would upset me greatly to think that she wouldn’t want to come to me for help when she was in trouble.”

Berndt knows that the consequences of his actions last year are nothing compared to what could have happened had he been in a fatal accident.

“I learned a very valuable lesson,” he said. “I am so glad I didn’t hurt anyone. It is not worth risking your life, your money or your career to drink and drive.”