Last year my life was forever changed. I was arrested for DUI as I was driving home from a beer festival. As a long-time beer blogger and advocate of knowing when to say when, this was devastating. Now that the ordeal is over, I want to tell my story in hopes that my experience will resonate with my readers and deter them from taking any chances when their ability to drive after having a few beers may be impaired.
In an instant everything changed. One moment the street was clear and the lights ahead were green and in the next a car was in front of me and the light was red. That moment, the moment when I took my eyes of the road because a text came across the screen of my phone, lasted less than two seconds, but it would define my life for nearly a year.
It was May 16, 2014 and I was enjoying my slight celebrity at the annual Jacksonville Craft & Import Beer Festival. The event is hosted every year at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena by a magazine I write for and a beer distributer I have ties with.
As the Jax Beer Guy, my role was to be an ambassador and advocate for craft beer and craft beer culture. I spoke with guests extolling the wonders of craft beer, pressed flesh with visitors and represented myself, my blog and the magazine I write for. I also visited with beer company representatives, some old friends and some new and filled in pouring beer at their tables when someone needed a break.
I also tasted beer in two to three-ounce pours throughout the evening. As I walked around, speaking with guests, I stopped at tables to try a sample of new beers and old favorites. I did not drink much. I was not dulled, my speech was not slurred. But, over the course of five hours, the beer in my system accumulated. And, because I ate over the entire time of the event, the absorption of alcohol into my system was slowed.
So, when the event ended, I did not feel that I had had too much to drink. I did not think twice about getting into my truck and embarking on the short 1.5 mile trip home. Little did I know that I would not reach home for more than 24 hours after leaving the festival.
As I turned on to Bay Street I drove past the Maxwell House coffee factory and slowed as a police officer pulled out of the underground garage for the Jacksonville Sheriff Department. I slowed to give the officer room ahead of me and proceeded towards home.
Just a couple of blocks later, the screen on my phone lit up and, after checking to see that the lights were green ahead of me, looked down to see the text that had caught my attention.
And then, my life changed.
I looked back up and suddenly, the light that I had thought was green was actually red and the patrol car was in front of me. I slammed on the breaks, but it was too late. I crashed into the police vehicle causing the trunk of the car to buckle upward.
I looked up again and the light that I had thought was the green light was actually one of the green lane indicator lights. Several years ago, the City of Jacksonville had lights installed above the lanes of bay Street to indicate travel lanes. The lanes were made to be reversible so that traffic from Jaguar games could be routed in on all four lanes before the game and reversed after the game. The lights are situated mid-block and, from the higher perspective of my truck, were situated slightly below the intersection signal lights. Further, the lights on Bay Street are sequenced in such a manner that multiple green lights – including the lane marker lights – are visible down the street at the same time.
In seconds the reality of the situation set in; I had just rear-ended a police car coming home from a beer festival, my clothes smelled like beer from pouring and I was wearing a shirt with my name embroidered above one pocket and ‘Jax Beer Guy’ above the other. I was in trouble and life was about to become very complicated.
Read part II of this series here.
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