Modified: December 9, 2021 10:58am

December 9, 2021

The Message is Simple: Don’t Make the Dangerous Decision to Drive Impaired

As Erie County Clerk, responsible for overseeing Auto Bureau operations, it is time to remind everyone this holiday season to not drink and drive or ride with anyone who is under the influence.  If you have had too much to drink, for everyone’s sake, please do not get behind the wheel of your car. 

We all look forward to celebrating this time of year with our family and friends, but if those celebrations include alcohol, you, as a driver, need to plan ahead and arrange for a safe ride home.  People who make the dangerous decision to drink and drive will find that local law enforcement is serious about combatting reckless and irresponsible behavior.  

According to Erie County’s STOP DWI Office there have been approximately 10,707 DWI arrests throughout Erie County in since 2017. That is an average of 2,141 per year, equaling close to 6 DWI arrests per day. Another alarming statistic is that during the COVID-19 pandemic, arrests for impairment by drugs increased to 12% of arrests, compared to a 7% of annual arrests. Many continue to ask, “What will it take to prevent someone from getting behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink or are impaired by drugs?” 

New York State imposes harsh driver license penalties for those with an impaired driving charge for either alcohol or drugs.   If convicted of a misdemeanor DWI, your license will be revoked for a minimum of 6 months. Aside from the tremendous expense for an attorney, fines and insurance premium increases, there is total disruption of normal life, including possible loss of job and jail time for repeat offenders. 

We need to keep in mind that preventing drunk driving is everyone's business, and we all need to take a leadership role in this fight! Driving while impaired is simply not worth endangering the lives of innocent people, while ruining your own life in the process. 

I want to also remind everyone it really makes no difference whether the driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs.  Impaired driving senselessly hurts and kills tens of thousands of people every single year. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) more than 10,000 people were killed in impaired-driving crashes in 2019 and NHTSA’s National Roadside Survey found that more than 22% of drivers stopped by law enforcement tested positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs. 

Those who choose to drive under the influence of drugs, whether obtained legally or illegally, pose a danger to themselves, their passengers, and other motorists and pedestrians. Drug-impaired driving isn’t a mistake; just like a DWI, it’s a crime. Impairment is impairment, no matter the substance. 

While celebrating the holidays, know the signs of when to hand over the keys and call a cab, a ride-sharing service or designate a sober driver before the party begins.  Drunk driving is no accident; it is a choice and a potentially deadly one. 

Let’s make sure we all do our part in making this a happy and safe holiday season for everyone. Please don’t drink and drive and don’t drive high.