Chris Pagaduan, a Battle Ground police officer, reminds drivers that if you feel different, you are different
The movies have a way of showing drunk drivers as those who can barely walk to their cars and have no idea who they are as they get behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, there are criminals who drive in such situations.
But many times, drunk drivers don’t have those types of symptoms. As one ad campaign says, buzzed driving is drunk driving.
This month, Target Zero, a state-wide campaign with the mission to have zero deaths on the state highways and roads by 2030, wants to get the word out on buzzed driving. Education is key, after all, for safer roads for all of us.
“The saying is, ‘If you feel different, you are different,’” said Chris Pagaduan, a Battle Ground police officer.
He noted that everyone has a different tolerance for alcohol but each individual should act responsibly. And he repeated the phrase:
“If you feel different, you are different.”
An officer in Battle Ground since 2017, Pagaduan said he takes a lot of pride in getting drunk drivers off the road.
“That is something I actively try to find every time I’m on the road, every time I’m working, even when I’m not working,” he said. “When I’m not working, I’ve called in DUIs myself. At the end of the day, I want everybody to make it home.”
Target Zero in Southwest Washington is not about just one city or area. The emphasis patrols are throughout the region. Pagaduan said he likes working with law enforcement officers from other departments, too.
“Target Zero is fantastic,” he said. “I can appreciate the mission.”
One of the reasons he became a law enforcement officer is to help, to serve. Pagaduan is from Hawaii and worked in the private sector in Las Vegas and then in Vancouver before shifting his career route.
“I wanted to do a little bit more, help people,” Pagaduan said. “Helping people was always a big thing for me. I’m pretty personable. I like pretty much everybody I run into. I want to make an impact on the community.”
That can be through his charity work via law enforcement, or it can be by the way he performs his responsibilities on the job. Drunk drivers are a danger to the community. So he takes pride in getting them off the road before they can hurt or kill someone.
Pagaduan said he has witnessed the aftermath of several crash scenes caused by drunk drivers, and not just the obviously impaired.
“Buzzed driving is as bad as drunk driving,” he said. “There is still a chance of something bad happening. That’s a pretty big chance to take. Buzzed doesn’t necessarily mean super drunk, but there is a slower reaction. It’s still going to affect your reaction time.”
That, he noted, can be deadly.
Law enforcement officers are trained to detect drunk driving, including buzzed driving. After training and years of experience, Pagaduan said he and his colleagues can usually tell if someone has been drinking. And field sobriety tests are reliable, he noted.
In a perfect world, though, there would be no tests administered to drivers because they wouldn’t be getting behind the wheel if there were any doubt. Pagaduan said friends and family members could play a huge role in putting an end to buzzed driving.
“If we’re noticing people that fit the description of buzzed, or drunk, or anything that may even be close, we have a responsibility,” Pagaduan said. “I love all of my friends. I love all my family. I would not let them drive or take that risk, whether they are buzzed or super drunk. As a community, that should be a goal, to consistently be aware of how they are acting.”
Ask yourself, is this normal?
Is your friend slurring his words? Is your family member looking for their keys? Do they not know where their wallet is? Anything that is just out of the ordinary after they have been drinking alcohol.
“Things like that are red flags,” Pagaduan said. “Say something. Be that person. ‘Hey man, I don’t think you’re good to drive.’”
Yes, Pagaduan said, that can be awkward, a little uncomfortable. But good friends are honest with each other.
“In hindsight, the next day, it will be appreciated,” Pagaduan said. “When you’re buzzed, you’re not thinking right. You’re not in your normal mindset.”
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