Thankfully no one was injured on Sunday when a Lumberton city councilman failed to stop in time at an intersection and his vehicle bumped into the one in front of him.
Police say that Columbus “Chris” Howard, who is serving his first term as the representative of Precinct 6, registered a .13 after the accident, which occurred at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and West Second Street shortly after 4 p.m.
An estimated $600 was done to both vehicles, so it barely registered as a fender-bender. But anytime someone gets behind the wheel impaired, the potential is there for tragedy.
Howard downplayed the incident, saying he had consumed two beers while celebrating his daughter’s birthday and his own. An accident report said the 69-year-old Howard was born on Sept. 5, so that part of the story holds.
But either Howard is lying about the two beers, or the Breathalyzer is. In order for a person of Howard’s weight, about 140 pounds, to register a .13, about five beers would have to be consumed. Because the body metabolizes alcohol, a person’s blood-level content drops about .01 every 40 minutes. So assuming Howard wasn’t competing in a beer-chugging contest, we think it is fair to believe that he consumed more than five beers.
But the judicial system can figure all that out.
Most folks who enjoy an occasional drink have probably driven when legally impaired — state law defines that as being .08 above — at some point in their life. So we wouldn’t suggest a person who has a DWI is disqualified to serve politically, although drinking and driving raises a question about a person’s judgment.
This DWI charge, however, is the fourth one that Howard has faced since 2003, with others coming in 2011 and 2014. We will add post haste that Howard has only once been convicted of a DWI, in 2003, and a year later was guilty of driving with his license revoked.
The 2011 charge went away when he was convicted of driving left of center, and he was found not guilty of a DWI charge in 2014.
All the charges came before he was elected in 2015.
We believe when someone is charged with a DWI four times, there is a decent chance that person has consumed alcohol and driven many more than four times in his or her life. The evidence is compelling that Howard has a problem with alcohol — and it would be our hope that he takes this opportunity to address the problem.
As to his worthiness to serve as a city councilman, that is, as it should be, a decision that falls on the folks who live in Precinct 6. Voters tend to be rather generous when considering the frailties of another person, especially when that person is genuinely contrite. On that, we aren’t sure Howard’s claim of consuming two beers meets muster.
This newspaper in 2015 did not make our readers aware of Howard’s driving record in advance of the election, mostly because we didn’t look. Had we, we likely would have made the call not to alert voters since at that time the last conviction was 12 years prior.
But should Howard seek re-election in 2019, we will remind readers of the four charges, and the number of convictions, be it one or two. Should that happen, we hope that Howard will be able to demonstrate that those demons have been conquered.
Best of luck to the councilman.