Hamilton: April 17, 2012 — More than 200 Madison County High School Students attended the 2012 Driving Spring Fling!, an annual event offered by Madison County STOP DWI – this year using the Colgate University Campus. Timed to precede the beginning of the Spring Prom and Graduation Season, this year’s attendees listened to speakers describe what the aftermath of a Drinking/Driving event means to family, friends and the community.
“There is sadness, loss, anger, and a profound sense that your lives have been changed forever,” explained one speaker who lost her son when he went to a Spring gathering “in the woods” with his buddies and then accepted a ride home in his friend’s father’s “hot” car. Another speaker pointed out that: “My life and the lives of all my family changed dramatically – we were never a family again, I was not allowed to go back to my old job after six months of physical recovery, and the medical bills dominated my life for many years.”
Al Riley, Sheriff of Madison County, discussed his experiences as a NYS Trooper and as the Sheriff. He still vividly remembers the “Colgate crash of 2001, which took place just a block down the street from where the Spring Fling was being held. Several college students were killed after a ‘night on the town” when the ride they had accepted crashed into a tree.
Representatives of both local hospitals and a local Undertaker discussed their experiences with the trauma-care of those involved in these sort of events. Jeff Paul, owner/operator of Paul’s Funeral Home in Madison and Chief of Police in Chittenango, put it bluntly: “Watching a family pick out a casket when they had other plans for their soon to graduate student is not fun!”
After Lunch and an opportunity to witness a Seat-Belt Roll-Over Demonstration provided by the NYS Troopers, Alex Gerrard, a Clinical Toxicologist from Upstate Medial Center discussed the many “synthetic drugs” that are appearing on today’s market and the complex and often devastating effects of these substances. “They are definitely not what they say they are!” Gerrard cautioned.
Steve Goodfriend, Madison County STOP DWI Coordinator explained that: “this program is not meant to stand alone. Each School District is already planning a number of events – including Mock Crashes – to remind their students about the myriad of dangers and down sides when drinking and driving are mixed together. STOP DWI is already helping the various Districts to put their Spring Programs together and is willing to work with anyone in Madison County in this regard. The Spring Fling gets everyone on the same page so that they can benefit from enhanced programs in their own schools.”
“We appreciate the help we have gotten from Colgate University – especially from the Campus Security Office — who worked with us to put this together,” stated Goodfriend.
STOP DWI is a local-option program than was made available to Counties in New York beginning in 1982 when the State Legislature as part of the recodification of New York State Law about drinking and driving — allowing local Counties to set up their own approach to this problem using fine monies collected from DWI offenders in that County.
The NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee has identified several program areas – Law Enforcement by local agencies; Prosecution through the District Attorney’s Office and the Courts; Probation; Alcohol/Substance Abuse Treatment; and, Education and Public Affairs — that are to me included.
Each County has developed their own approach. The NYS STOP DWI Coordinators Association provides professional assistance and training to the STOP DWI Programs in every New York State County.