Nassau County officials on Wednesday held a news conference at Wantagh Park Marina to remind the public to enjoy themselves responsibly on the roads and waters, especially this Memorial Day weekend, or else there will be serious consequences. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

Nassau police are targeting the intoxicated on the roads and waters as the Memorial Day weekend approaches, with authorities warning that drunken driving often results in tragedy.

Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly pointed to two horrific crashes this week, one where an alleged drunken driver killed three women leaving a Sweet 16 party in New Hyde Park.

“Now instead of basking in the celebration of this young girl’s Sweet 16, that family is planning three funerals,” Donnelly said. “The survivors of that crash will relive that moment for the rest of their lives. The survivors will carry lifelong injuries and some in cases need extensive physical therapy. Why? Because an alleged drunken driver got behind the wheel of a car and decided to drive.”

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder also pointed to another crash early Wednesday off the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway where a woman, charged with driving while intoxicated, drove off the highway in Woodbury and crashed into a tree with her 18-month-old son in the backseat. Luckily, neither was severely injured.

Suffolk County police, who will also be targeting aggressive, distracted drivers and intoxicated drivers and boaters, will hold a news conference Thursday to detail their enforcement plans.

Nassau County has seen a rise in DWI fatalities, Ryder said. In 2020, 44 people died, increasing to 55 people in 2021 and there have already been 17 DWI-related deaths so far this year, he said.

“We sometimes refer to the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day as the 100 most dangerous days,” Donnelly said. “Sadly, the number of drunken driving deaths in this country is only growing.”

Nassau County Police Marine Bureau patrols the bay on Wednesday...

Nassau County Police Marine Bureau patrols the bay on Wednesday in Wantagh. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Across the country, there were 11,654 people who died in 2020 from alcohol-related traffic crashes and more than 20,000 people died from alcohol-related crashes in first half of 2021, Donnelly said.

She also said about 32 people a day die nationally from DWI crashes, according to the National Highway Safety Association.

Ryder said alcohol, weather and inattentiveness often lead to crashes on the water. Nassau County has one of the highest number of registered boats in the country with more than 28,000 registered motor boats, not including sailboats or other paddle boats. 

Every motorized boat is required to register with the county and all children 12 and under are required to wear life vests, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said.

Nassau County is using a state STOP Grant, to increase driving and boating patrols, as well as using asset forfeiture funding for increase enforcement throughout the county and villages, Ryder said.

“It doesn’t stop with the weekend, it will go on for the entire summer and entire year. We will keep that enforcement up,” Ryder said.

According to AAA, 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend. This is an increase of 8.3% over 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with those in 2017.

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