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Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro joined the Dutchess County Chapter of Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) today for the 33rd annual “DWI Victims Memorial Ceremony” to honor the memories of Dutchess County victims of DWI crashes. Friends and family gathered as 45 victims’ names were read and balloons were released in their memory. The goal of the event is to heighten public awareness of alcohol-related fatalities and the impact of impaired driving on the community.
County Executive Molinaro said, “As a community, it is important we remember the lives that have been impacted and sadly lost because someone made the tragic decision to drive while impaired or under the influence. Remembrances such as this assure we both never forget those who’ve been taken from us and continue to send the message that driving while intoxicated is not a choice – it’s a crime. When you drive under the influence, you’re not just risking your own life but also the lives of motorists with whom you share the road.”
The “DWI Victims Memorial Ceremony” included the presentation of the annual Jo Johnson Memorial Scholarship, which is given in memory of Josephine “Jo” Johnson, who founded the Dutchess County Chapter of RID in 1981. The scholarship was presented to Elisabeth Clemmons of Pawling High School.
County Executive Molinaro and local officials also announced law-enforcement agencies throughout Dutchess County will participate in a special enforcement effort to crack down on impaired driving to coincide with the Memorial Day holiday. The statewide STOP-DWI crackdown efforts start on Friday, May 27th and will end on Tuesday, May 31st.
Memorial Day week is often considered the unofficial start of summer, historically a deadly period for impaired driving. There will be thousands of parties and barbeques to celebrate graduations, proms, communions and confirmations, as well as the arrival of better weather. This combination of factors equates to more people on the road in general and more people specifically driving impaired, with 13 percent more fatalities than on a non-holiday weekend. The American Automobile Association (AAA) projected last year 36.1 million drivers would drive at least 50 miles from home during Memorial Day weekend. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 400 people a year die nationwide during a typical Memorial Day weekend.
The New York State Police, Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office and municipal law-enforcement agencies will collaborate across the state and will be out in force during this coordinated effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related injuries and deaths during this period.
County Executive Molinaro said, “Dutchess County has so much to offer during this time of year, so we want to ensure our roads are safe for all motorists. Driving while intoxicated and endangering innocent lives is simply not acceptable in Dutchess County. Throughout Dutchess County, law enforcement will look to rid our roads of unsafe drivers. If you attending a celebration this Memorial Day weekend, please do so safely – if you drink, designate a driver. The risk is not worth it.
“Don’t let a celebration with friends or family turn into a life-altering event which, ultimately, is 100 percent preventable,” added County Executive Molinaro, noting 44 percent of all traffic fatalities that occur over the Memorial Day weekend are alcohol-related, and reminding all drivers and passengers to be mindful and responsible throughout these high-risk holiday periods.
Dutchess County Legislator Angela Flesland said, “This weekend, when you’re out with friends and family celebrating, make sure you encourage them to make the right choice to not drink and drive.”
The Memorial Day Weekend crackdown is one of many statewide enforcement initiatives promoted by the New York State STOP-DWI Association, with additional funding from the STOP-DWI Foundation with a grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. The Statewide STOP-DWI Crackdown Campaign also targets July 4th and Labor Day weekend, Halloween and the holiday season in December.
Dutchess County STOP-DWI Coordinator William C. Johnson said, “Law enforcement will utilize a variety of coordinated approaches including saturation patrols and roving sobriety checkpoints in the ongoing effort to identify and arrest impaired drivers.”
While STOP-DWI efforts across New York have led to significant reductions in the numbers of alcohol and drug related fatalities, still too many lives are being lost because of crashes caused by drunk or impaired drivers. Highly visible, highly publicized efforts like the STOP-DWI Crackdown Campaign aim to further reduce the incidence of drunk and impaired driving.