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Kearns: A happy holiday season is a safe holiday season


Fri, Dec 8th 2023 04:00 pm

The message is simple: Don’t make the dangerous decision to drive impaired

Guest Editorial by Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns

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.

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 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 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.

Every single day, impaired driving senselessly kills about 37 people in the U.S. in drunk-driving crashes. In every state, it is illegal to drive under the influence, yet one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 39 minutes. In 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most recent study, more than 13,384 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths, which is a 14% increase from 2020.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug-impaired driving is also a concerning public health problem. A NHTSA National Roadside Survey found that more than 22% of drivers stopped by law enforcement tested positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Whether they are illegal, legalized, prescription or over-the-counter medicines all can affect your ability to drive safely.

I want to also remind everyone it really makes no difference whether the driver is impaired by alcohol or 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. The facts are, if you feel different, you will drive different.

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. Plan a safe ride home before you start your holiday festivities.

Please, think twice – don’t drive distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Let’s make sure we all do our part in making this a happy and safe holiday season for everyone on the roads and at home.

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