Please don’t try this at home, folks

When I was a kid, there was a local guy who we used to see when my parents drove us into town on a rural road. This man had apparently had a long-term drinking problem and had his license taken away. He still wanted to drive from his farm into town, probably to have a drink or two, and he wouldn’t walk the seven miles. A logical answer? Drive the lawn mower. He would mount up the John Deere and rumble along the shoulder of the road, day or night, snow or sunshine.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Wednesday, July 23, 2008 12:00am
  • Opinion

When I was a kid, there was a local guy who we used to see when my parents drove us into town on a rural road. This man had apparently had a long-term drinking problem and had his license taken away. He still wanted to drive from his farm into town, probably to have a drink or two, and he wouldn’t walk the seven miles. A logical answer? Drive the lawn mower. He would mount up the John Deere and rumble along the shoulder of the road, day or night, snow or sunshine.

Even back then we thought it was a little like “Otis the Town Drunk” from “Andy of Mayberry,” and it was sort of quaint. The problem is, as you could probably guess, the man kept drinking and he ended up in a crash with a vehicle on the roadway. Most states have made operating any motor vehicle of any kind while impaired illegal, including golf carts, mopeds, boats and lawn mowers.

So, that’s the background for a case we had earlier this month that was another example of “You Really Can’t Make This Stuff Up.” The first few calls came from residents in unincorporated King County east of town as they reported a woman on a lawn mower driving on the roadway on 240th Street, swerving and apparently intoxicated, and headed west toward Kent.

Officer Clift was in the area and found the woman driving a red riding lawn mower southbound on 116th Street, halfway onto the paved part of the road and halfway onto the gravel shoulder, the blades throwing rocks and debris up into the air as the traffic backed up and tried to swerve around the mower.

The officer saw that she was trying to hold the mower steering wheel with one hand and hold a large plastic cup, taking a drink now and then, with the other. Not a good sign.

The officer pulled in front of her and stopped his squad car, lights flashing, in front of the mower. Her response was to continue driving around the car, farther into the ditch, and keep on truckin’ down the road. You can imagine the look on the officer’s face as she continued at five miles per hour, sipping on the presumably alcoholic Big Gulp.

She headed back onto the road, a little too far this time, as several vehicles had to swerve to avoid hitting her. The officer got on his car’s loud speaker and ordered her to stop. She drove into a nearby parking lot, which happened to be the lot for the Police/Fire Training Center.

The officer immediately confirmed what he suspected by smelling a strong odor of alcohol and noticing her speech was slurred. She was able to tell him that she was coming from her home a few miles east of Kent. Believe it or not, she was headed to visit her daughter, who lived a few miles west of Auburn. That would have been about a six-hour trip. When the officer asked why she was driving a lawn mower, which seems like a reasonable question, her answer was that she wished to help the city by cutting the grass along the roadways while going to see her daughter. Multi-tasking at its very best.

A more apparent and logical reason for the use of the lawn mower was that the driver had a suspended license. She was given a breath test and it indicated a .15 alcohol content, almost twice the legal limit.

Just a few weeks ago a man in the Midwest was killed when he fell off the back of a golf cart being driven by his drunken friend. A few years back, a man was arrested in the street driving one of those tiny motor scooters you can buy at the mall. The rest of the story was that it was his third DUI arrest in less than a week and the neighbors complained after he almost ran into their kids.

Drunk driving is serious, no matter what kind of motorized vehicle it involves. We hope the woman described in the arrest earlier this month gets the help she needs and gets her life back on track. In Washington, a person can be arrested for driving over the legal limit on any kind of vehicle with a motor.

As we enter the middle of summer, please don’t drive drunk in a car, boat, or anything else.

Stay safe and have a great week.


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