‘0-0-1-3’ works – I’m alive to prove it

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- I arrived home Saturday with a few thousand dollars worth of damage to the front end of my dream truck.
I could have been the young man from Pensacola whose Ford Explorer is scrap metal and wondering how to pay for a life flight helicopter ride … if he ever makes it out of a critical care bed in the Baptist Hospital of Mobile, Ala.
One Friday afternoon, an Airman in his Class A blues handed me a business card as I came through the front gate. The card read “0-0-1-3,” a friendly reminder the Air Force has joined a nation-wide campaign designed to increase awareness of responsible drinking.
I placed the card in my drink holder and made a mental note. I had already enjoyed two beers during the last two hours at a retirement party. That meant only one more for the rest of the night. I had my third drink during a dinner ceremony at the club and arrived home thinking the night was a success.
After 23 years of service, some of those as a medic in the emergency room, I know the military has good reason to publicize “0” drinks for those below age 21 and “0” driving-under-the-influence offenses. The “1” drink per hour allows your liver enough time to process the alcohol and “3” maximum drinks per night keeps the body’s blood alcohol content below 0.05 percent.
It would be a catchy hook if it worked. Now I know it does. On Saturday afternoon, I noticed the “0-0-1-3” card in my cup holder, as I was driving to a college football game in Mobile. Once again, I made a mental note. I certainly didn’t need the age 21 reminder, but I didn’t need a DUI either.
I developed my game plan for Saturday night based on the catchy slogan: one beer at the tailgate party, one during the first half, and I could still savor one more during the fourth quarter. At the post-game tailgate party, I stuck to my game plan and had my favorite caffeinated cola drink.
After the traffic and two-hours passed, I was headed east on U.S. Interstate 10, clear-headed. That’s what I remember thinking as I crossed the Mobile Bay Bridge.
Just outside of Foley, Ala., my world, and my truck, came to a crashing halt. Another driver had decided he didn’t need catchy slogans to drive home. His SUV sideswiped my truck doing something a little more than the posted 70 mph speed limit. A lot of luck and sober reaction time helped keep my truck right side up, as I was pushed into the median – not so for the SUV.
I watched in slow motion, as the vehicle rocked, slid, then cart-wheeled into a double roll, before slamming into the trees and landing in a ditch on the south side of the highway.
It only took a split second, but my decision to use the “1-3” formula saved my life, and as I crossed the blacktop that night, it also saved a young man from possible death or permanent paralysis.
The roll and impact of the SUV threw the driver out the rear hatchback window and into the cold water of a ditch that now held the twisted remains of his Ford Explorer.
I’ve seen enough trauma to know ejection-type automobile accidents rarely end well. Owed to my training as a pararescueman and a clear thought process, I was able to provide first aid, keep the victim stabilized and work with emergency services to get him on a life flight helicopter to the Mobile hospital.
Was it a catchy slogan all that kept me alive and saved this man’s life?
Maybe or not, but this Saturday sequence of events ended with me kissing my 10-year-old daughter good night.
The “0-0-1-3” card is worth handing out at the front and back gates of Hurlburt Field every Friday night for as long as it takes to teach responsible drinking.