• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
News Alert: DIRECTV Customers: Tell DIRECTV to bring back KTVA - Call 800-531-5000. - Read More
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

  • News

    Fur Rondy provides winter fun for locals and visitors

    by Heather Hintze on Feb 24, 19:38

    Are you ready to Rondy? The 2017 Fur Rendezvous winter festival kicked off Friday afternoon. Many who live in Alaska don’t find it unusual to take a Ferris wheel ride in the freezing cold, or run with reindeer through the streets of Anchorage. For people in the Lower 48, Fur Rondy is a chance to see […]

  • Body cam shows use of deadly force by Fairbanks officer, no criminal charges filed

    by Sierra Starks on Feb 24, 18:40

    In an unprecedented move, the Fairbanks Police Department have released body camera footage of an August 2016 incident during which a sergeant shot and killed an armed man. James Robert Richards, 28, was shot twice in the head after assaulting two people at the Alaska Motel and leading police on a chase through downtown Fairbanks, according to the […]

  • News

    Half a million Little Tikes swings recalled following reports of injuries

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 24, 16:11

    More than half a million Little Tikes swings have been recalled after a number of injuries were reported, according to a notice on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) website. The recall notice states that Little Tikes has received more than 140 reports of the 2-in-1 Snug’n Secure pink toddler swings breaking. Of those […]

  • Politics

    Dozens demand town hall meeting with Sen. Sullivan during annual address to lawmakers

    by Liz Raines on Feb 24, 15:25

    A group of about 50 people gathered in front of the state capitol building in Juneau to demand a town hall meeting with Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan Friday afternoon. Sullivan was in Juneau to deliver an annual address to lawmakers on his work in Congress. In his speech, the Republican senator did not reference the […]

  • News

    Addicts using pets to score drugs, veterinarians warn

    by Jennifer Earl / CBS News on Feb 24, 15:18

    As animal lovers, veterinarians pride themselves on being trusting and caring people. They don’t want to believe anyone would intentionally hurt their pet, but in recent years, they’ve had to train themselves to look out for those who do just that as drug addicts turn toward animals to score pain medication they can’t easily access. […]

  • Purple Reign: Prince tribute show in Anchorage for 1 night only

    by Daybreak Staff on Feb 24, 15:16

    Purple Reign: The Ultimate Prince Tribute Show is coming to Anchorage for one night only. The Prince impersonator Jason Tenner has won multiple awards for his act, and performs regularly in Las Vegas. According to Tenner’s website, Purple Reign started at University of Nevada Las Vegas clubs and morphed into what is known as the “#1 Prince […]

  • Mushers compete for record purse of $100,000 in Fur Rondy sled dog races

    by Daybreak Staff on Feb 24, 12:57

    The Fur Rendezvous Open World Sled Dog Championship Race starts Friday, Feb. 24. Racers will compete for a record-setting purse of $100,000. “Dogs don’t know it, they run with with the same enthusiasm every year,” said Janet Clark, the 2017 Fur Rondy race marshal. This is different from the Iditarod, which is a long-haul 1,000-mile race […]

  • Sports

    Therapy, husband lead Aliy Zirkle back to Iditarod

    by Mark Thiessen / Associated Press on Feb 24, 12:09

    One of dog mushing’s leading figures has suffered panic attacks and undergone therapy in the year since she was stalked by a drunken snowmobile driver on an isolated stretch of the Iditarod race across Alaska. Aliy Zirkle tells The Associated Press that she has had a really hard time during the first half of this […]