by Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs
As your Erie County Clerk, responsible for overseeing auto bureau operations, it is time to remind everyone not to drink and drive this holiday season and not to ride with anyone who has had too much to drink. 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 cracking down on reckless behavior.
According to Erie County's STOP DWI Office, there have been 23,639 DWI arrests throughout Erie County in the last seven years. That is an average of 3,377 per year, equaling 10 DWI arrests per day. Another alarming statistic is that over the same seven-year period on average 299 arrests each year were drivers under the age of 21. So many questions and reactions immediately come to mind - "What will it take to prevent an individual from getting behind the wheel when he/she has had too much to drink?"
New York state imposes harsh driver license penalties for DWI offenders. If convicted of DWI, you lose your license for a minimum of six 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, jail time for repeat offenders or worse.
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! Drinking and driving is simply not worth endangering the lives of innocent people, while ruining your own life in the process.
While celebrating the holidays, know the signs of when to hand over the keys and call a cab or designate a sober driver before the party begins. Drunk driving is not an accident; it is a choice and a potentially deadly one. One crime that is 100 percent preventable is drunk driving.
Please join me in making this a happy and safe holiday season. Don't drink and drive.