Seven drinks, seven years and one important tailgate sessionA Polk County, Iowa jury found a Belews Creek, N.C. tower technician guilty last month of severely injuring Des Moines police officer Phoukham Tran after he struck him with his vehicle while Tran was directing traffic at the state fair last August. Last week, the presiding judge handed over the maximum sentence of seven years in prison to 37-year-old Keith Terry, five years for serious injury by vehicle, and two years for Operating While Intoxicated. Terry had been working on Des Moines tower sites for approximately one month and after leaving a bar after work he was driving by the entrance to the state fair when he hit Officer Tran. Court testimony was presented that Terry thought the traffic light was green and Tran backed out in front of Terry's truck. The prosecution argued it was red. But it was clear through Terry's testimony and a breathalyzer test that identified that he was three times over the legal limit and he was drunk. Terry told police he had six beers and a shot of whiskey between 4 p.m. and midnight, when he pulled out of the bar parking lot and traveled less than a block before hitting Tran. Over a dozen viewers aware of the incident in the past month emailed Wireless Estimator about the guilty verdict and questioned why we weren't writing about it. We had opted not to publish an article just because a tower technician was convicted of an OWI for an incident that occurred while he was not working for his employer. So, why the newfound relevance? The significance is he's not alone in denying he has a drinking and possibly drug problem since he was also charged with possession of marijuana. It's a predicament of many people in our industry, whether they are in wireless construction or pop breath mints all afternoon to hide a three-Manhattan lunch following a meeting with a major co-locator. A closer look has revealed that Terry is still in denial that his drinking played a role in Tran's near-death accident that has left the man partially paralyzed and with continuing problems from a brain injury. Terry contends it was simply an accident and that he was not reckless when he climbed behind the wheel. “Everything happened so quick, I really don’t know what the hell was going on,” Terry said on a recorded police interview that was played for jurors during the trial. “When I (expletive) up, I knew I’d (expletive) up, so I threw it in park and stepped out of the vehicle.” The video, made a few hours after the crash, shows a distraught Terry discussing his high tolerance for alcohol and his belief that he was not particularly impaired. He said he worked 2,000 feet above the ground and is responsible for the lives of several crew members, and it is his habit to have a few beers each day after work. “I feel that I was OK to drive,” Terry said in the interview. “Yes, sir, I believe I was slightly intoxicated,” he told officers a few minutes later. Slightly pregnant? Slightly tied off? Terry, who made $18 an hour working for the tower contractor, was unable to post his $51,000 bond. Terry's employer is unknown and it's not important to uncover. If the Ford F-350 with coax in the rear was one of their vehicles, their insurance premiums will go off the charts since Tran will possibly require a lifetime of physical and financial recovery assistance. What is important, however, is that this tragic accident should be used for one of the most important tailgate sessions a company can hold. In a new industry Job Hazard Analysis form being introduced later this month, contractors of all sizes who assisted in developing the best practices JSA, have added a short checklist entitled Last Five Minutes, focusing upon how you should leave a jobsite. It should be a reminder that vehicular safety doesn't end when you're off the time clock. Feel free to provide your comments regarding alcohol or other dependency problems and how companies and employees can ensure that they're part of the solution and not the problem. What is your employer's policy on the usage of company vehicles? How do you unwind after a stressful day?