State Police on the lookout for drunk, distracted drivers this weekend

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

New York State Police will initiate special law enforcement efforts during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend to keep drunk drivers off the roadways and alcohol out of the hands of minors. Last year's effort resulted in 184 arrests for DWI and more than 11,000 tickets issued for traffic and other violations. This year's effort will be activated today, March 13, and run through Monday, March 16.

“State Police will be out in force to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend for all New Yorkers,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Our message is clear: Be safe, act responsibly and there will zero tolerance for behavior that puts public safety at risk.”

Drivers can expect increased road patrols and sobriety checkpoints along roadways throughout the state, as well as a stepped-up effort to ticket distracted drivers using handheld electronic devices. Troopers will be using both marked State Police vehicles and Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) vehicles as part of the operation in order to more easily identify motorists who are not following traffic laws. CITE vehicles allow the Trooper to better observe driving violations by blending in with traffic, but are unmistakable as emergency vehicles once the emergency lighting is activated.

The State Police will also engage in operations to identify underage drinking and sales to minors during the campaign. During the 2014 enforcement period, State Police issued 34 tickets on charges ranging from unlawful possession of an alcoholic beverage to sale to a person under 21.

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said, “The New York State Police would like everyone to have fun this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, but urge people to do it safely. If you plan on drinking please designate a sober driver. Impaired drivers can cause needless deaths and injuries. Together, we can keep New York State's roads among the safest in the nation."

For too many Americans, St. Patrick’s Day has ended in tragedy as a result of drunk drivers getting behind the wheel. Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend from 2009 to 2013, there were a total of 276 lives lost in drunk driving crashes according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Every 45 minutes, a person was killed in a drunk-driving crash in the United States in 2012, and most of the drunk drivers involved had blood alcohol concentrations nearly double the legal limit of .08.

Those who choose to drink and drive can face jail time, the loss of license, a higher insurance rate, and dozens of unanticipated expenses. An impaired driving charge carries a maximum fine of $10,000.