Sailors lectured on DUI

Published 9:42 pm Saturday, December 8, 2012

As a retired sailor, former police officer and now a Suffolk prosecutor, George Bruch was the perfect person to talk recently to young service men and women on the USS Harry S. Truman about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Bruch went to Naval Station Norfolk on Nov. 20 and 21 to spread the message of safety. With some sailors able to take leave during the holidays and go home, it was a good time to remind them of the importance of staying off the road if they are impaired. The talk was part of the ship’s Safety Standdown program, which also emphasized topics such as domestic violence.

Bruch said Kaye Walsh, the state vice chairwoman of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Virginia, invited him to speak.


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“She thought I’d be in a better position to talk to these sailors and get across to them,” Bruch said.

Bruch was in the Navy for 21 years before retiring as a master chief petty officer. He then spent more than eight years in the Virginia Beach Police Department, where he had more than 300 arrests for driving under the influence — that’s about one every week and a half. He responded to more than 20 fatalities caused by DUI fatalities.

And now he works in the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and prosecutes similar cases. All of that gives him the voice of experience when speaking about the dangers of impaired driving.

“It’s the only cause of death that can be completely prevented,” he said. “Accidents are one of the leading causes of death.”

Impaired driving includes not only driving after drinking alcohol but also driving after consuming such substances as illegal drugs and certain over-the-counter and prescription medications, Bruch said.

“We would rather that there be no DUI, and we don’t have to prosecute anybody,” Bruch said.

Bruch told the sailors a particularly tragic story from when he worked in Virginia Beach. Three sailors were in a car he pulled over for suspected DUI. All three bailed and ran, but he caught the driver and arrested him.

Later that same night, a wreck occurred with the other two occupants of the car, who had returned to the party and gotten another car. The driver was arrested for DUI, but the passenger “got the death penalty,” Bruch said.

When he was a police officer, he used to tell those he arrested for impaired driving this: “It’s your lucky day, because you haven’t died or killed somebody else,” he said.

Bruch said he hopes his talk had its desired effect on the sailors.

“I think if I spoke to 3,000 sailors and one of them is out drinking and remembers what I said, I made an impact,” he said. “I hope it’s more, but if it’s just that one, then I’m happy.”