Focus is on safe travel

Local law enforcement agencies will be out in full force this holiday to ensure safe travel for everyone.

Lt. Mark Polowy of the city of Dunkirk Police Department said they will enhance patrols this holiday.

“We enhance patrols and keep our eye out for erratic driving, which happens especially during the holidays,” he said. “We have zero tolerance for anyone who drives after consuming alcohol.”

Polowy said police will be out in full force to check for people driving while intoxicated, and they will also do their routine checks for traffic violations as well.

“Anytime during the holidays we keep our eye out for distracted drivers and DWIs.” he said.

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said his department is involved in Operation Crackdown.

“We add patrols out to see if anyone is driving under the influence of alcohol during Operation Crackdown,” he said. “Crackdown funding is used specifically for local enforcement to be out in full force during the holidays.”

Gerace said he will send more deputies out to be on the lookout specifically for people driving while intoxicated.

“More and more people are driving with drugs in their system,” he said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in a press release that State Police and local law enforcement agencies will be out in full force cracking down on distracted driving, utilizing sobriety checkpoints, and saturation patrols to deter drunk driving during the holiday season.

“As New Yorkers and visitors travel all across the state to visit friends and families for the holidays, we are ramping up enforcement efforts to keep our roads safe during this busy time of the year,” Cuomo said. “During this crackdown, the State Police and local law enforcement will be on high alert, watching our roads and highways to combat distracted and drunk driving to prevent unnecessary tragedy. I urge travelers to drive responsibly so that we can all celebrate this holiday season safely.”

Cuomo strengthened the state’s DWI laws when he announced a multi-pronged initiative in September 2012 to keep drivers with a history of repeat alcohol or drug related driving convictions off the road. These new regulations, including a lifetime record review of all drivers who apply to have a license reinstated after a revocation, gave New York among the toughest protections in the nation against drivers who persistently drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In addition, Leandra’s Law sets some of the toughest DWI provisions in the country. First-time offenders of driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs with a child less than 16 years old in the vehicle laws may be charged with a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

Drivers convicted must install and maintain an ignition interlock on any vehicle owned or operated by the driver for a minimum period of six months.

“State Police have sobriety checkpoints throughout the state for everyone’s safety this holiday season,” said State Police Superintendent, Joseph A. D’Amico. “We are joining more than 20 thousand police agencies in sending a message that holiday revelers should plan ahead and designate a driver or arrange safe transportation in advance to make sure everyone arrives home safely for the holidays. We will also be out in force looking for distracted drivers. Distracted driving can be as dangerous as driving impaired. The safest way to enjoy the holidays is to not drink and drive, buckle up, put down the phone and drive safe.”

To strengthen distracted driving laws in the state, Cuomo signed a law in July 2011 that makes using a handheld electronic device for activities such as texting while driving a primary offense, giving law enforcement the power to stop motorists for engaging in this activity.

In 2013, the fines for distracted driving were increased and the number of points that could be placed on a license upon conviction for texting while driving and cell-phone related infractions were increased from three points to five.

In 2012, according to DMV statistics, there were 8,633 alcohol-related crashes in New York State reported by police, resulting in 358 people killed and 6,303 injured.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities increased nationwide by 4.6 percent in 2012, accounting for 31 percent of overall fatalities.