Commentary

Saunders: A scarlet license for convicted drunk drivers could save lives

bsaunders@newsobserver.comApril 4, 2013 

Forgive Doug Narron if he puffed out his chest when that waitress at the Alaska restaurant sauntered over and asked for ID before serving him a glass of wine.

Narron, of Raleigh, can also be forgiven if he thought she was just angling for a juicy tip by flattering him.

Narron, you see, is 69 and hasn’t been carded since the Nixon administration. In Alaska, he found out, everyone is carded and the conscientious hash slinger was just doing her job.

Sorry, Doug.

While on a vacation cruise with his wife last September, he said, the couple disembarked in Anchorage, checked into a hotel and went out to dinner. He said “The waitress come up and I said ‘I’ll have a wine,’ and she said ‘Can I see your card?’ I said ‘Card?’

“I said ‘Great day. You’re making me feel good.’ She said, ‘Naw, it’s our law here. Anybody who orders an alcoholic beverage, we have to ask for their ID’,” he told me.

He said the waitress then explained that once someone is convicted of DUI, judges have the discretion of putting on their licenses whether they can be served alcohol. She also explained that failing to do so could result in her losing her job and the bar losing its license if a customer who wasn’t carded and couldn’t drink legally gets into an alcohol-related accident.

Visit the Alaska state DMV website and you read that a red banner stating “Alcohol Restricted” adorns the licenses of some offenders.

Hmm, Narron thought, such a rule might prevent some of the booze-soaked fatal car crashes in North Carolina, such as the one that killed two members of his church last month. Narron attends New Hope Baptist Church, as did Ormond and Gaynell Bailey.

Ray Norman Rouse IV, 34, was driving in the wrong direction on Wade Avenue when his car hit the Baileys’ head-on. Rouse is suspected by police of having been drunk. He had a previous drunken-driving conviction. Gee, wouldn’t it have been loverly if whoever served him the hooch that day could have glimpsed his driver’s license and seen that he was a threat to public safety?

Gov. Pat McCrory initially supported, then backed off, that foolish idea of requiring undocumented immigrants to carry pink driver’s licenses. If he is still inured of the idea of stigmatizing people, though, he could brush that concept off and propose doing it to people who deserve a scarlet letter — those who have demonstrated their willingness to slither behind the steering wheel while smashed.

Narron said the accident that killed the Baileys and the Alaska liquor laws touched him for another reason: he caught a DUI in 1984, and as he told me – as well as the trooper who popped him – “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. ... The Lord uses different means to get people’s attention.”

Years after his arrest, Narron said, while driving on the same stretch of highway to the family’s place at the beach, he was stopped by a highway patrol checkpoint. “The same black guy – a highway patrolman – he was the nicest guy in the world. I saw him there and I stopped and reached out and shook his hand. I said ‘Sir, you have no idea (how much) what you did meant to me. You changed my life.’ He had a big smile and said ‘Yeah, I remember you.’ ”

I asked Narron if he minded my sharing his story with readers.

“I wish you would,” he said enthusiastically. “It might help somebody else.”

Yes, and so might a scarlet stripe on boozers’ licenses.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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