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NY Police: 'Drive Sober' This Holiday Season

Jesse King
Chuck Deweese, assistant commissioner of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, speaks from the Crossgates Mall on Tuesday.

New York State Police and local law enforcement are stepping up patrols and traffic stops to crack down on impaired driving this holiday season. 

The “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign sponsored by New York’s STOP-DWI program runs through New Year’s Day. Last year, officers issued more than 4,000 tickets statewide for alcohol and drug-related offenses during the holiday season. Speaking at Crossgates Mall, Assistant Commissioner Chuck Deweese of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee echoed what he says is a 40-year-old message. 

Credit Jesse King / WAMC
The GTSC had "drunk goggles" on hand to give mall-goers an idea of how alcohol impairs their perception and movement.

“Impaired driving is wrong. It’s dangerous, and law enforcement will be out there on a regular basis," says Deweese. "If you’re going to a holiday party, think ahead...there’s just no reason in 2019 to get behind the wheel impaired by drugs or alcohol.”

New York has zero tolerance for drug impaired driving and a blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.08 percent, but State Police Colonel Robert Nuzzo says even one drink can lead to poor decision making down the line. He urges people to make travel plans – designate a driver, call a cab, download a ride hailing app – before they start drinking. 

“We do not want to arrest people for DWI," says Nuzzo. "And what we don’t want to do, worse than that, is have to knock on somebody’s door, and tell a mother, a father or some loved one that their loved one’s not coming home tonight because of the actions of some irresponsible person who chose to drive.”

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association says an average 29 people died each day in impaired driving crashes across the country in 2018. Despite the costs associated with DWIs – STOP-DWI says a single offense costs anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 – the GHSA says one-third of impaired driving deaths are caused by repeat offenders. Guilderland Deputy Police Chief Curtis Cox says that’s exactly why this campaign is so important.   

“Wouldn’t you think that with all the press and with all of the tickets that are issued and the arrests that are made, that people would get the message and they wouldn’t drink and drive? And I can tell you in the 36 years that I’ve been here I’m hearing the same questions year after year after year," notes Cox. "This is why we must keep repeating the same message and continuing these enforcement efforts over and over and over again.”

In a new report, the GHSA recommends an individualized approach to address what it calls “high-risk” impaired drivers, complete with pretrial screenings, closer supervision of offenders, increased training for officers, and more. Deweese says the GTSC sponsors drug recognition training in police departments across the state, and helped develop STOP-DWI’s “Have a Plan” mobile app, where residents can call a taxi and report suspected impaired drivers.

"We have the tools out there, with the ride-sharing, with taxi cabs, with designated drivers – so there’s just no excuse to drive impaired," says Deweese. 

Jesse King is the host of "51%" and a producer for WAMC's afternoon news programs. She also produces the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."