Heading into Memorial Day weekend, New York State Police are putting drivers on notice: expect a number of sobriety checkpoints and patrols as enforcement efforts are stepped up.
Troopers say in 2018 they arrested 13,000 people for driving under the influence of drugs and alochol. Latham Troop G Commander Major Robert Patnaude: "2,000 of those arrests took place on the roadways of Troop G. Drinking or using drugs before getting behind the wheel is extremely dangerous. It places your life, the lives of your passengers, and others at risk. Troopers will increase DWI enforcement throughout the Memorial Day weekend. We'll be on the roadways searching for intoxicated drivers. There will be several road checks and roving patrols dedicated to finding drunk drivers. If you choose to drive under the influence, there's a good chance you will be caught, and the consequences of DWI arrest are dire."
Troopers are promoting the slogan “I got hit by a drunk driver, I got the life sentence.” The initiative is dedicated to crash survivor Sandy LaPlant, who in 2014 was a motorcycle passenger, struck by a drunk driver. Damage to her leg was so severe she had to have it amputated. Her boyfriend, who was driving the motorcycle, also suffered extensive injuries.
LaPlant, who appears on a billboard posted along Route 155 in Albany County, faces daily challenges as she continues to cope in the aftermath of the crash. "I for the most part keep myself together, but I still have days where I speak. I speak at a lot of different victim impact panels, I speak for Choices and I work a lot with MADD, but I do have days where I break down, and it's hard. And it's mainly when I talk about my grandkids, I mean it changed their life. I can't run around with them and play, I can't play hide and seek. My 3-year old granddaughter right now, as soon as I come to the house she runs right to the door, arms are up, wants me to pick her up, that's all I can literally do is pick her up. I can't walk with her anymore. I'm still struggling with a prosthetic after almost five years. It'll be five years in June. And I do this because I really wanna get the word out, and if I can save one person, it makes me feel better."
Patnaude is asking for the public’s health in keeping drunk drivers off the road. "There's simply not enough police out there to catch everybody. So if you see something, you have to call us, you have to do something. And we'll be happy to send a trooper right over to the party or the bar, wherever you see this person. Call, it can be anonymous, say what they guy is wearing, the kind of car he has, and we'll take it from there."
He adds the penalties for drunk and drugged driving are severe. "It depends on their lawyer and everything, but it's cost them several thousand dollars, it's gonna affect their ability to drive, it's gonna affect their car insurance for years and years, but that's inconsequential to us. We're out protecting the public. That's what we care about. If someone makes the bad decision to drive while they're drinking or while they're under the influence of drugs, so be it. They have to deal with the consequences."
Federal data shows every day, about 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes.