Hudson Valley cops aim to stop drunken driving on New Year's Eve
As police have stepped up enforcement of drunken driving laws in recent years, arrests have dropped.
But New Year's Eve remains a challenge, police say.
That's why local, county and State Police agencies will once again turn out in force over the New Year's holiday, in a concerted crackdown on drunken and drugged driving.
"Unfortunately, drunken driving is a problem 365 days a year," said Major Michael Kopy, the commander of State Police Troop K, which covers Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Columbia counties. "And on New Year's Eve that problem does seem to be heightened."
In 2008, there were 58,370 felony and misdemeanor drunken driving arrests in the state, according to statistics from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. That number dropped to 50,389 in 2011. The number of arrests is on pace to dip below 50,000 this year, according to state statistics.
Police plan to keep doing what they have been doing on New Year's Eve, which means there will be DWI checkpoints scattered throughout the Hudson Valley.
"New Year's Eve is probably the biggest night, the one we concentrate the most on for drunken driving," said Westchester County Police Lt. Nick Alongi.
Both state and county police will be manning checkpoints, the county police working cooperatively with local police. Kopy said that the state police checkpoints will be mobile, moving from place to place periodically throughout the evening to maximize coverage. To back up the checkpoints, State Police will have patrol cars waiting on surrounding streets, to deal with drivers trying to skirt the checkpoints.
The Rockland County Sheriff's Office will be working with local departments in the county to set up similar checkpoints, focusing on areas where taverns are located, said Rockland County Sheriff's Sgt. John Murphy.
"We know New Year's Eve is a big party night," Murphy said, "but people have to be careful. Designate a driver if you're going to be drinking. There are plenty of taxi services available, too."
Murphy offered a few words of advice for partygoers.
"There's nothing wrong with people partying," he said. "But everyone has an obligation to be responsible."
Dutchess County's STOP-DWI program received a $79,500 grant earlier this year to focus anti-DWI efforts on holidays like New Year's Eve, said William Johnson, the administrator of the county's STOP-DWI office.
"The 'Holiday Crackdown' campaign is intended to discourage people from driving impaired, promote awareness, and keep the roadways safe," Johnson said. "Police agencies throughout Dutchess County will be stepping up enforcement efforts to protect the public from drivers who choose to drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol."
Extra patrols and DWI checkpoints will be spread throughout the county, Dutchess County Sheriff's Capt. John Watterson said.
"We'll be out in force to make sure the roadways are safe," he said.
Alongi, of the Westchester County police, suggested that partygoers carry the phone numbers of at least two taxi companies with them if they're going to be drinking on New Year's Eve. Those who are drinking at house parties should just sleep it off at the host's house, rather than risk getting behind the wheel of a car, Alongi said.
"Sleeping on the floor of someone's house is a lot cheaper than sleeping in a jail cell," Alongi said, "or living with the injury or death of someone else on your conscience."