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Carolyn Smithrud: Staying safe while you sip

The attention on our area as the heart of Oregon wine country continues to grow, and with it an increase in traffic in our cities and on country roads. All should do their part to ensure the roads remain as safe as possible, which means planning ahead to avoid drinking and driving.

Perhaps you know a loved one or friend who has been involved in a drunk driving incident in the past. Maybe you even know someone who has received a DUII or gotten behind the wheel when he shouldn’t have. You might have even been the person to take away vehicle keys from someone too intoxicated to drive.

Guest Writer

Carolyn Smithrud is the owner of Wheels N Time, a personal transportation service for individuals living in or visiting Yamhill County. She is a member of Women of Willamette, current officer for Toastmasters International and lives in McMinnville with her husband.

Every year, 28.7 million people admit to driving under the influence of alcohol — more than the entire population of Texas. The facts will make anyone cringe, even when reading individual reports done on a state-by-state basis.

Oregon was given only three out of five star rating in a 2015 MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) report because the state has not yet utilized sobriety checkpoint programs and no-refusal events. Sobriety checkpoints randomly screen drivers for intoxication and deter alcohol-impaired driving. No-refusal programs help law enforcement quickly obtain a warrant to test a suspected offender if he or she refuses a blood alcohol test.

As the heart of Oregon wine country, our area in Yamhill County attracts thousands of visitors each year to visit some of the best wineries in the U.S. Locals also frequently travel the back roads of wine country and enjoy afternoon tastings at many of the hundreds of wineries in our area.

Whether you are a first-time wine taster or consider yourself a seasoned connoisseur, be courteous and consider others’ safety before getting behind the wheel. The cost for receiving a DUII ticket could be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 after you factor in a night in jail, towing and impound, the cost of a one-year suspended license, DUII classes offered by the DMV and  additional court-related charges, such as a defense attorney and legal fines. These costs don’t include the emotional toll of injuring or even killing another person.

Oregon’s legal limit for BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) in regard to driving is 0.08 percent. Wine tastings usually involve a one ounce pour per taste — which means if you taste a flight, you are consuming anywhere from three to six ounces of alcohol in a short amount of time. You could be over the legal limit after just one tasting, depending on the amount of food consumed prior to drinking, how fast you ate and personal body composition such as gender and weight.

Although DUII statistics haven’t been collected for wine tasting in Oregon, one can conclude that drinking in wineries or venues that don’t serve food and then getting behind a wheel shortly afterward is a dangerous situation.

The key to avoiding problems related to drunk driving is planning. If you are arranging a fun afternoon wine tasting with friends, always make sure that either a sober person drives, or no one drives. There are a variety of private transportation services available in the region specializing in wine country outings, including limos, trolleys, busses, designated driver programs that use your own car and others that use the driver’s personal sedan. Costs range from reasonable, especially when split among a group, to expensive. But all pale in comparison to the financial burdens of DUIIs.

So, leave the keys at home and let someone else do the driving for you. Sit back, sip, relax and enjoy the ride, knowing you are not putting yourself or others at risk.



Carolyn, thank you for bringing attention to the dangerous use of alcohol. This is especially important in an area of the country that chooses to glamorize its use. With the addition to all of the attention given to the use of marijuana, these uses of mind altering substances are of particular concern. Too many people gloss over that three times as many people are killed every year directly from the use of alcohol as are killed with guns. In addition to the deaths, so many families/friends absorb the slow death caused by alcohol usage. Thank you.

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