• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 29s

Blood alcohol levels in Anchorage DUI arrests paint a troubling picture

By Rhonda McBride 6:02 PM December 24, 2013

Blood alcohol levels of people arrested for drinking and driving are excessively high, police say

ANCHORAGE – Police have long noticed this trait in drunk drivers: They often don’t know they’re drunk because they can walk, talk and appear normal.

It’s one of the quirks of how the body metabolizes alcohol. Someone who is stumbling drunk may actually have a much lower blood alcohol level than someone who might appear more sober. Despite appearances, this seemingly collected driver is still impaired.

One thing police said they know for sure is the blood alcohol levels of people arrested for drinking and driving are excessively high.

Take last weekend in Anchorage, which police said is a snapshot of the problem. Out of 13 arrests, 10 or about 75 percent, had blood alcohol levels at least two times the legal limit — which is .08. One driver had more than three times the limit.

“It’s something that’s not unusual,” said police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro. “In a lot of our DUI arrests that we see on a weekly basis, a lot of times the drivers are well over the legal limit — and a lot of times, twice the legal limit.”’

Castro has been tracking the numbers this year and has found there’s no typical DUI offender.

“It’s all age groups. It’s all times of the week. We’ve arrested a driver for being three times over the legal limit at noon on Saturday,” Castro said, who noted that an 83-year-old man was also arrested over the weekend for a blood alcohol level that was twice the limit.

Those who work substance abuse treatment programs are not surprised. They believe the arrest numbers reflect the seriousness of alcohol addiction in Alaska.

“The DUI is usually just the tip of the iceberg,” said Capt. Bill Finley, who has worked with street drunks in California and those in recovery at the Clitheroe Center in Anchorage. “If somebody gets to the point where they’ve got two or three times the legal limit of alcohol, they’ve got an issue.”

And it’s not a one-time thing, Finley, but a product of heavy drinking that’s developed over a number of years.

Finley has worked with many people who are good at masking how drunk they are.

“They may be able to show up at work,” Finley said. “They may not lose their job, but their home is a wreck. The idea of a functional alcoholic, I think, is a myth.”

It’s hard to really know someone, especially someone who has learned to be good at hiding their alcoholism, Finley said, who believes that’s why many heavy drinkers fall off the radar of bartenders — and even their own family and friends.

“They need help,” Finley said.

Rosalie Nadeau, head of Anchorage’s Akeela treatment program, agrees with Finley about how the extremely high blood alcohol numbers are a symptom of a bigger problem.

“It tells me that a lot of heavy drinkers never get stopped,” Nadeau said. “It also tells me that we have people, who are so acclimated to alcohol, they don’t know they’re alcoholics — like the frog in the pot of water on the stove that doesn’t know it’s in trouble until the water is boiling.”

Another problem, Nadeau said, is Alaska’s attitude in the workplace toward those alcoholics.

“Tolerance of functional alcoholics is high,” Nadeau said. “It’s an attitude that you don’t see in most other places.”

To Nadeau, it’s this attitude of widespread denial which contributes to Alaska’s high rates of alcoholism. In the experience of treatment counselors, a DUI arrest is the start of saying something is wrong.

And something was clearly wrong for a woman spotted by citizen volunteers last weekend leaving a downtown Anchorage bar. She backed her car into a light pole.

“Officers were able to catch up with her in a few minutes,” Castro said. “And her breath sample, that she ended up providing police with, was a .299. Obviously she was three-and-a-half times the legal limit, already damaged her car, but fortunately didn’t kill anybody or harm herself.”

Anchorage has had five deaths this year due to drinking and driving.

Latest Stories

  • Lifestyle

    Toddler falls asleep while waiting to meet Santa, result is adorable

    by Associated Press on Nov 30, 13:32

    When Donnie Walters took son Zeke to have his picture taken with Santa Claus, the 6-month-old boy couldn’t stay awake while they waited in line. So Santa obliged Walters and posed asleep with the snoozing child resting on his belly. Walters posted the photos of the sleeping pair on Facebook. The photos taken Nov. 25 […]

  • News

    Testing finds no nuke-disaster radiation in Alaska seafood

    by Associated Press on Nov 30, 13:03

    Alaska health officials say tests have again confirmed that Alaska seafood has not been tainted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster four years ago. A 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, generated a 130-foot wave that devastated 217 square miles in Japan. About 16,000 people were confirmed dead and nearly 2,600 were never found. Among the […]

  • News

    2 Alaska case studies in National Park Service’s climate change response report

    by Associated Press on Nov 30, 11:22

    The National Park Service has released a report detailing agency efforts to address problems caused by climate change. The report lists 24 case studies of threats to infrastructure, natural and cultural resources in U.S. national parks and monuments. Two of the case studies are in Alaska. The agency says coastal erosion, reduced sea ice and […]

  • On-Air

    Teacher of the Week: Sam Struempler

    by Megan Mazurek on Nov 30, 10:56

    Sam Struempler says if you think you have middle-schoolers figured out, think again. “It’s right at that [age] where they start making decisions,” said Struempler, a music and drama teacher at Golden View Middle School. “To be there at that moment is pretty cool.” Struempler has been helping his students find their voices for the […]

  • DayBreak

    Story Time with Aunt Phil, Nov. 30

    by Daybreak Staff on Nov 30, 9:14

    ANCHORAGE – One-hundred-twenty years ago today, religious history was made in the Last Frontier. Peter Trimble Rowe was consecrated as the state’s first Episcopal bishop. He arrived from Canada, and traveled by dog team, boat and snowshoes to establish Alaska’s Episcopal churches during his decades-long tenure. Laurel Downing Bill, author of the “Aunt Phil’s Trunk” […]

  • News

    Texas agency helps seek owner of lighter bought in Alaska

    by Associated Press on Nov 30, 8:53

    A Texas sheriff’s office has joined the hunt for the owner of a cigarette lighter used by a deputy more than 50 years ago but recently purchased in Alaska. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office on Monday posted a photo of the lighter on its Facebook page. Sheriff’s officials in San Antonio are checking the records […]

  • Lifestyle

    Researchers in Alaska try to find cause of chickadee beak deformity

    by Daniella Rivera on Nov 30, 8:04

    Researchers in Anchorage are trying to figure out what’s causing beak deformities in black-capped chickadees and other species of birds in Alaska. “The beaks can grow in different directions, so it affects the ability to come and pick up a seed or also access food from a feeder, just because the beaks are all twisted […]

  • News

    Seward Highway reopened after head-on collision in Girdwood area

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 30, 7:47

    An injury crash closed the Seward Highway near the Alyeska Highway early Monday morning, state transportation officials say. According to Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters, a southbound Jeep Cherokee lost control when rounding a corner and slid into the northbound lane, hitting a Toyota Camry head-on. The drivers — and the only occupants in […]