Magnarelli: National Drunk and Drugged Driving Month Spotlights Motoring Safety

With the holidays just around the corner, friends and family everywhere are preparing for the celebrations, reunions and get-togethers the season brings. But with the merriment comes the need for moderation and responsibility.

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, a time when, amid the festivities, we’re reminded of the dangers an under-the-influence driver poses to everyone on the road.

A threat to all

Drunk driving accidents kill one person nearly every 30 minutes. Last year, preventable alcohol-impaired tragedies claimed 17,419 lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Onondaga County, alcohol-related accidents have increased over the past five years from 280 in 1997 to over 450 in 2001 – an alarming trend that highlights the gravity of this national epidemic.

While a DWI conviction in New York can cost a driver more than $15,000 in fines, fees and insurance increases, the real cost of drunk driving – the loss of human life – can never be measured.

Keeping drunk drivers off the road

To curb drunk driving and save lives, I sponsored a law, which took effect July 1, 2003, lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level from .10 percent to .08 percent (Chap. 3 of 2002). To the average driver, this means:

  • A 170-pound male is at .08% after four drinks within one hour
  • 140-pound female is at .08% after three drinks within one hour

One drink is equal to 1¼ oz. of 80 proof alcohol, such as whiskey, one 12 oz. beer or 4 oz. of wine.

I also supported Sean’s Law allowing a judge to suspend a learner’s permit or junior license immediately after a minor’s first court appearance for Driving While Intoxicated – rather than waiting until after the arraignment. It also requires the court to more quickly notify a parent or guardian of a minor arrested for DWI or Driving While Ability Impaired (Chap. 571 of 2002).

The law, which took effect in December of 2002, is named for 17-year-old Sean Patrick French, who was killed in a car accident in which another 17-year-old was charged with drunk driving. The driver was already awaiting arraignment on a DWAI charge from just two weeks earlier. Driving is one of the biggest responsibilities teens have to deal with and it is up to us to ensure they realize that with this freedom comes a strict set of rules.

Showing support for driving safety

Ensuring safety on the road is a responsibility shared by all. National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Week is a reminder to us all about making safe choices when it comes to getting behind the wheel. It’s also an opportunity to come out and show our support for efforts to increase our families’ safety.

The Concerned Citizens Against Drunk Drivers will hold the 20th Annual Lights On Caravan on December 6th at the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (Centro) Building at Cortland and Tallman Avenues in Syracuse. The motorcade honors the victims of impaired driving and emphasizes the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. There will be a closing ceremony and refreshments at Jamesville-DeWitt High School. To reserve a place, call 435-3280.