With holiday festivities in full swing the past two weeks, law enforcement increased their presence to keep the roads safe.
The state’s Stop-DWI program is the nation’s first and only self-sustaining impaired driving program. Created in 1981, the program seeks to reduce mortalities and injuries associated with alcohol and drug-related crashes using funds from court fines paid by drunken drivers, according to stopdwi.org.
Each year, participating agencies have a crackdown period for the national holiday season from Dec. 11-Jan. 1.
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office received a $15,000 grant to increase its presence.
“Research shows that high visibility enforcement can reduce impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20%,” according to a release from the sheriff’s office. “Sobriety checkpoints are a key part in raising awareness about the problem.”
The sheriff’s office encouraged residents to have a plan for going out.
“If you are heading out tonight, plan ahead as to how you will get home or where you will stay if you shouldn’t drive,” according to a statement on the department’s Facebook page. “Don’t be afraid to call someone if you drink too much — your family and loved ones will thank you. Trust us, the cops don’t want to have to arrest you. They don’t want to take away your license or follow the ambulance to the hospital. They don’t want to clean up the road from the accident you caused. They really don’t want to notify anyone’s next of kin.”
The Stop-DWI program, in conjunction with the state Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee released the “Have a Plan” app specifically for this purpose.
“This app provides you with a timely and convenient resource that enables you to locate and call a taxi service, program a designated-drivers list, educate yourself on blood-alcohol content levels, as well as information on DWI laws and penalties or even report a suspected drunken drivers,” according to stopdwi.org.
The app is available on both Google play and the App Store.
As one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year, New Year’s Eve can be a telling occasion for law enforcement. Drunken driving arrests in the Twin Counties on Tuesday night were on par with last year.
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office had one arrest, Undersheriff Adam Brainard said.
“Usually we have no more than two to three,” Brainard said.
Columbia County Sheriff’s Office made two arrests Tuesday night for drunken driving, Lt. Wayne Lopez said, adding that the amount was typical.
State police had four arrests in Columbia County for drunken driving, compared with three arrests last year, state police Public Information Officer Aaron Hicks said.
Throughout New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, state police arrested three drunken drivers in Greene County, state police Public Information Officer Steven Nevel said.
Part of the STOP-DWI, or the Special Traffic Options Program for Driving While Impaired, program’s educational efforts is to inform communities about the potential costs associated with drunken driving.
For example, court fines for alcohol offenses range from $300 to $10,000, according to stopdwi.org. In addition to court fines, defendants will also have to pay court surcharges, ranging from $260 to $520, and also a $750 fee required by the Department of Motor Vehicles for a Driver Responsibility Assessment, according to stopdwi.org.
This does not include fees for reissuing a license. To obtain a conditional license, the defendant has to pay $200 to $225 to attend a state Drinking Driver program.
The defendant may be referred for an alcohol and/or substance abuse evaluation. Legal fees can range from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the case, according to stopdwi.org.
Auto insurance premiums for convicted drunken drivers is about three times that of other drivers, according to stopdwi.org.
Other crackdown periods throughout the year included Halloween, which was Oct. 31 - Nov. 3 and Thanksgiving, which was Nov. 27 - Dec. 1. Upcoming dates include the Super Bowl Jan. 31-Feb. 2; St. Patrick’s Day, March 13-18; Memorial Day, May 22-26; July 4, July 3-6; and Labor Day Aug. 19-Sept. 7.