Drunk driving and minnows

Erik Hoversten

When I grow up to be a movie star or the president, you will almost certainly want to visit my childhood home to better understand the man behind the legend, and maybe to take pictures of yourself by my old sandbox. As a special favor, I’ll give you the directions now so you can see it before it becomes too commercialized.

First, drive to Iowa City. Now I have to make a confession. My old house was a nice place to live, but it’s not all that interesting in and of itself, so you’ll probably enjoy the experience more if you first head downtown and get plastered at the drinking establishment of your choice. When the bar closes, you’ll know it’s time to head to my place, so jump in the car and head north on Dubuque St. Once you go over the river, you’ll notice a nice straight-away that you should use to build speed. Then you’ll head into an “S” curve. In your inebriated state, you may find it difficult to make the turn, but don’t worry, if you miss the turn you’ll end up in my old front yard.

Actually, this happened on average every two years while I lived there. As I grew, I watched our front hedge recede with every impact. What makes it most upsetting is that the people rarely got in too much trouble, and if they did, it was fairly easy to be acquitted with the right lawyer mixed with a pinch of perjury.

There are many alcohol awareness programs out there, but I often wonder if they do much good. I’ve never been forced to undergo alcohol awareness training, but from what I gather, it’s pretty useless. There’s really not a lot to tell you besides alcohol makes you drunk, it’s bad for your liver and bad things can happen when you’re drunk. When John Coors shows up on television to tell you not to drink and drive it’s a good political move, but it probably doesn’t have much of a real effect.

My high school did quite a bit to get the message out. We never watched the drunk driving spaghetti videos, but every year they brought in people who were convicted of manslaughter or rendered paraplegic by their accidents.

Senior year before prom, the local MADD group set up a mock accident in the parking lot to show what happens in a drunk driving accident. They spared no expense on the show. The Eagan police showed up, the fire department brought the jaws of life; the state patrol swung by, as did the ambulance and the coroner, who zipped the actors up in body bags.

Since my high school did its job, I decided to look into what the local government does to solve problems. Apparently, the State of Iowa considers LSD use a problem, because according to 1997 Iowa Code 124.401, if you get caught with 0 to 10 grams of LSD, it’s a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a $5,000 to $100,000 fine. If you get caught with any heroin, cocaine, PCP or methamphetamines, it’s at least a class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $1,000-$50,000 fine.

At the risk of sounding like a “Dragnet” episode, I then found 321J.2, a much more captivating read than 124.401, which outlines sentencing for driving around with a blood alcohol level of .10 or more. Your first time, it’s a serious misdemeanor. You get a $500 to $1,000 fine and 48 hours in jail, but you get credit for the time you spent drying up, and they can accommodate your work schedule.

The second time around, it’s an aggravated misdemeanor, which gets you at least a week in the county lock-up and a $750 fine. On your third time, you finally break into felony land with a class D felony. According to code 902.9, a class D felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $500 to $7,500 fine.

My list of people not to mess with is comprised of the Mafia, Dr. Dre, Slim and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. If the MN DNR catches you being naughty, they can seize things from guns to rice to fish houses. In the event that they catch you shining game, transporting illegally taken or purchased game or illegally transporting minnows, they can seize your automobile too, and in the event that you’re convicted, they can keep it. Shining deer is a pretty cowardly and bastardly thing to do, but at least deer are in season part of the year, whereas I am not.

I guess what I get out of this is that the government is not afraid to resort to harsh measures to solve its problems. However, I also have to assume that either the government doesn’t think that the cause of 42.5 percent of traffic deaths in Iowa is a problem, or else those suspicious people you meet on Minneapolis street corners that say the only reason marijuana and LSD are illegal is to keep Mexicans in Mexico and persecute hippies actually do know what they’re talking about. I can also deduce that it’s okay to drive drunk, so long as you don’t have any plans to stock nearby lakes.

If you’re ever driving your mini-van around Eagan, and you decide to spin your tires when you leave the McDonald’s parking lot, you may find yourself pulled over for exhibitionist driving as my friends did a couple years back. When the policeman points at your van and asks you if you know what it is, the correct answer is not “van,” but rather “2000 pound death machine.”

This tale has become folklore amongst my old pals, but the officer did have a point which is often overlooked.

Erik Hoversten is a junior in math from Eagan, Minn.