Multifaceted Plan Needed

Utica Observer Dispatch – 12/2/12

Although New York State has toughened drunk driving laws over the years, that alone won’t discourage the dangerous behavior that could someday result in the death of someone you love.

We must be relentless in the effort to stop DWI. And that effort cannot be one-dimensional, but instead needs to be an ongoing three-pronged attack that includes the tough laws, but also focuses on ramped-up enforcement of those laws and sound education.

A cursory glance at the news pages makes it clear that the DWI problem isn’t going away. And it becomes even more threatening as we move into the holiday season.  Though this year’s numbers aren’t yet available, state police made 277 DWI arrests a year ago during the Thanksgiving holiday period. That’s due to increased sobriety checkpoints and dedicated DWI roving patrols, funded in part through Stop DWI programs that are seeded with money collected from court fines resulting from drunk driving convictions.

Education programs cannot be compromised. Children should be taught about the dangers of drinking and driving as soon as they’re able to understand because such programs can save lives. Twenty years ago, we rarely heard of a designated driver. Today, though irresponsible behavior always will exist, young adults are more aware of DWI consequences and more apt to take precautions their parents might not have taken. STOP-DWI initiatives, Students Against Drunk Driving and other programs that stimulate discussion among young people should be encouraged in and outside of schools.

Finally, penalties for drunk driving should be tough enough to discourage the irresponsible behavior, and show no mercy when the laws are repeatedly broken. In 2010, for instance, the state required that an ignition interlocked device be installed in the vehicles of drivers convicted of DWI. Drivers must blow into the device and show they have no alcohol in their system before the car will start.

Even better yet are regulations initiated in September that permanently terminate driving privileges for serial drunk drivers — among the toughest public protections in the nation.

The regulations were issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles after Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, asked Gov. Cuomo to use his executive power to implement the spirit of a law Tedisco authored to keep dangerous drivers off the road forever. Previously, New York state drivers convicted of multiple alcohol or drug related driving offenses could not permanently lose their licenses. The new rules strengthen the DMV’s ability to keep them off the road for good.