Special Report: Are You Drunk?


Sip after sip, is the last sip enough?

The Tri-State is no stranger to drunk driving crashes with deadly consequences. Despite all the warnings, some still make poor choices.

When is it too much to get behind the wheel? A pint’s pour has become a piece of any party, but at what point do the pints start to pour over?

Drinking and partying is a ritual for college kids and sometimes a retreat for grown-ups. Across the country, we live in a craft beer bonanza. People like Matt Davis love to try the latest greatest brews.

“I’ve never had a flight, this is my first flight,” he says, bellying up to Carson’s Brewery bar.

The flight of beer is a sample tray, so to speak. It comes with four 5 ounce pours. But little shots of beer can add up to much more.

“If I like it I want more of it, and sometimes the one glass isn’t enough,” he says. Matt favors the high gravity beers, high in alcohol content. A few 8 or 9 percent brews quickly goes to the head.

He has the wild and crazy Carson’s offers, like Nocturnal Emissions, Demonik, one not-so-subtle named Deez Nuts; a coconut double milk stout, and the whopper of them all, a 9.3 percent milk stout finished in a rum barrel.

“It doesn’t take volume,” says Tammy Bottoms, positioned as woman in charge of the taproom. “We can do anywhere from 4 percent all the way up to 12 percent on the ABV,” she says pointing to the long list of beers on the chalkboard.

After only a few small beers, Matt can start to feel the effects. “It doesn’t look like much but as I’m drinking and trying to do a variety of each one, it adds up.”

Bottoms has worked the Carson’s bar for a few years, and she takes a tally of the drinks she deals. “I’m turning them loose on the street, I have to be responsible,” she says.

After about an hour of drinking, Matt seems good to go… Or is he? We’re about to find out.

“How many beers have we had today?” questions Lt. Noah Robinson with the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office, as he steps out of his cruiser.

This isn’t a real stop. One we set up to test the limits of alcohol, and how little it may take to come close to the edge.

Lt. Robinson starts every sobriety check the same.

“The first part of the test is, I’m going to put my finger here from left to right,” he says, holding his right index finger a few inches from Davis’ eyes.

It’s a simple test with delicate hints. He’s looking for nystagmus in the eyes. A slight jitter that becomes uncontrollable when you’ve had too much to drink.

“It’s not horrible but it’s there,” he says.

After just a few seconds and the first test Lt. Robinson estimates our alcohol test dummy has a blood alcohol contest around .06 which is just under the legal limit. Robinson says “it’s an educated guess,”

It’s obvious he’s done this a few times.

The next tests follow, where Davis can walk in a line, stand on one leg and count to thirty. He passed, but not with flying colors. Now Robinson brings out the big gun – a little gray box with a straw.

“Blow as hard as you can for as long as you can,” Robinson says.

In a matter of seconds the verdict is in. Remember his guess?

In big red numbers, .059 the breathalyzer reads.

Robinson’s guess after just a few finger waves is off by a fraction.

“He is legal to drive but is that a good idea? No.” Robinson says of Davis’ condition. “In Indiana, you could be charged with impaired driving if you had a BAC of .05 or more.”

Robinson says officers would likely call a cab for someone this close to the .08 legal limit, and this close to a potential life or death decision; which Jeff Osborne knows all too well.

“Taco Bell is very popular between 12 and 3 o’clock in the morning,” he jokes. “I went through Taco Bell 3 times in 15 minutes.”

Behind the wheel of a blue Ford truck you’ll find pride, passion, and love. Anyone out until 4 a.m. shuttling the nightlife home must have some reason.

“You’re not going to get rich doing this but that’s not the reason I do it,” Osborne says.

Jeff drives every weekend with Uber on the dash, fighting a battle against drunk driving with each pick up.

Osborne has seen devastation and how poor choices lead to changed lives. March 2015, his son Kurt was rushed from an accident scene on Evansville’s west side to Deaconess Hospital, where “you’re met with the chaplain, and that’s not a good feeling at all.

A wrong-way drunk driver hit the car Kurt was driving. His friend and Reitz student, Logan Brown was killed in the crash. Kurt and Hannah Miller were seriously injured.

“That was a bad night to remember for a lot of people.”

Uber touts on its website how the service reduces drunk driving crashes in cities it serves, down as much as 10 percent in major urban areas where rush hour starts just after last call.

“Last weekend I worked till 4:30 in the morning so I was even taking bar owners home after they closed up,” he says.

Wrapped up for more than a year, Peoria, Ill. has noticed a decline too. It’s a city close to the same size as Evansville. While it might not make a difference in the River City, Jeff is betting it might.

“It feels good getting out and maybe making a difference, maybe not but you have to think that you are,” he says with a smile.

Because it doesn’t take much at the bar, and only one misstep on the sobriety check, before that cop asks:

Are you drunk?

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