Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Why are they still drinking and driving?

It was Saturday (11/23) around 1:20 a.m. when the car came barrelling down, headed northbound on Alderman Road in the Town of Macedon. The driver, Randy L. Cole of Rochester told police that, by the time he saw the stop sign at Alderman and Route 31, it was too late.

The vehicle crossed Route 31, travelled about 30 yards across the grass leading to the Erie Canal. The car went airborne and ended up in the canal. Cole and his passenger managed to escape the sinking vehicle through the sun roof.

Both Cole and his passenger suffered facial contusions and were transported to Strong memorial Hospital. Police believe the accident was alcohol-related. Blood was drawn from Cole to determine his blood alcohol level and charges may be pending.

Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a report on Sunday (11/24) at 5:42 a.m. of a vehicle parked in the middle of Hanagan Road in the Town of Palmyra with the driver sleeping behind the wheel. The driver, Kristine M. Cunningham, age 27, of Monroe Avenue in the City of Rochester was subsequently arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

Palmyra Police Sergeant Jim Showman stopped at the ExpressMart for a quick soda at 9:30 p.m. on Friday (11/22). He noticed a running vehicle in the parking lot with the driver asleep behind the wheel. The driver, Rickey Ashley Jr., age 38, of Fairport was subsequently charged with Felony DWI.

Dale Dillon, age 51, of Williamson was supposed to have an interlock device installed in the vehicle he was operating last Friday (11/22), when he was stopped for Speeding. The interlock device, required for a DWI conviction, is supposed to prevent drivers from starting their vehicles after they have been consuming alcohol. He, too, was subsequently charged with Felony DWI with a previous conviction for drinking and driving.

DWI convictions, the programs and measures taken to prevent future arrests, often fall on deaf ears with chronic alcoholics. Even harsh prison terms fail to sway the drinking and vehicle habits of some drivers. One Wayne County driver has accumulated no fewer than seven alcohol-related drinking/driving arrests.

Although DWI arrests have tapered off since Wayne County was listed as #2 per capita in DWI arrests in the state (during the 1980s-1990s), DWI arrests have again been rising the last several years.

With the increase in awareness, come stiffer penalties and changes in the laws governing DWI thresholds. A DWI in New York had been set at .10% or higher, but thanks to national and state groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) the legal definition dropped to .08%. Still tougher levels now include:

• 0.08% and you’re 21 years old or older.
• 0.04% and you’re driving a commercial motor vehicle.
• 0.02% and you’re younger than 21 years old.

Depending on your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) and other factors, you could face:
DWAI/Alcohol: The specific name for Driving While Ability Impaired by alcohol;
DWAI/Drugs: The specific name for Driving While Ability Impaired by a drug other than alcohol.
DWAI/Combination: The specific name for Driving While Ability Impaired by both alcohol and other drugs.
Aggravated DWI (A-DWI): Being charged with aggravated driving by having a 0.18% BAC or higher.

Penalties for these additional drug and alcohol crimes vary, as do those for other related crimes, like chemical test refusal and breaking the Zero Tolerance Law.

Your DWI penalties depend on factors like:
• Your age.
• The substance impairing you (alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both).
• Your driver’s license (regular passenger license vs. a special license like a CDL).
• Whether you submitted to a chemical test.

First time DWI arrests net a fine of between $500 to $1000, plus a state surcharge of $400. This does not include other related costs such as possible installation of a interlock device on your vehicle and the monthly monitoring charges; Drinking/Driving programs/classes and driver assessment fees.

Then comes the real cross to bear. Attorney fees usually start at $1500 to $5000 for non-trial cases. In instances where a trial occurs, legal fees can reach up to $15,000. Vehicle insurance will either be cancelled, or doubled following a DWI conviction. If injuries to other drivers, or passengers occur, expect additional lawsuits and legal fees.

Aggravated DWI (over a .18% BAC), or a Felony DWI garner much higher court costs and legal fees.

Unlike decades past, District Attorneys throughout the state are less likely to plea bargain a DWI arrest. Wayne County has one of the state’s highest conviction rates, ranking 2nd, or 3rd for a number of years for DWI arrests.
In the first three quarters of 2013, Wayne County has posted a total of 240 DWI arrests. The majority of DWI arrests are still men, but almost one out of four is female.

Police sources cite the economy as a possible reason for the latest surge in DWI arrests.

According to a study by the national Highway Traffic safety Administration:
• A majority of DWI offenders fear arrest and many stopped drinking completely for some period of time following a DWI arrest. While the arrests and sanctions had an impact, DWI behavior often returned after some period of time. Also when police presence was certain (checkpoints, patrol cars positioned outside of bars, stepped up enforcement around holiday periods), there was evidence of a decrease in DWI behavior among their study participants.
• A majority of individuals with revoked or suspended licenses drove anyway, most very carefully so they would not be detected. Some drove only one time, but others drove regularly, even daily (e.g., to jobs). Most individuals stated they knew they would probably have to serve jail time if caught driving without licenses. A large fraction of the participants did not believe they were endangering themselves or others at the time of the offenses because they believed they were able to drive safely. Most individuals who came to realize, at some point in time, that they may have been a danger to themselves or others when driving under the influence, seemed to make the decision to alter the behavior (either stop drinking or stop driving after drinking).