State police remind motorists: Drinking and riving doesn't mix

As many people continue to celebrate this holiday season, the New York State Police are among law enforcement agencies reminding people to be responsible if having a drink is part of their festivities. Officers statewide will be out in force seeking to ensure roadways are safe from drunk drivers, said New York State Police Troop B commander Maj. Richard C. Smith Jr. At a press conference held at the troop's headquarters in Ray Brook Dec. 20, Maj. Smith announced troopers would be joining law enforcement officers across the state and the country in National Holiday Lifesaver Weekend last weekend, setting up checkpoints in Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties as one measure to prevent incidents related to driving under the influence. While the holidays are a time of celebration, Maj. Smith said if the festivities you are attending involve alcohol, make the decision to either remain at the location where you are celebrating, or choose a designated driver to take you home. It's important to understand one's ability to operate a motor vehicle can be affected by as little as one drink, he said. The effect can be increased exponentially when mixed with the changing weather conditions seen in the North Country during the winter. "The weather at your point of origin may be completely different than the weather at your destination and vice-versa," said Maj. Smith. "You have to adjust your speed according to road conditions and you have to assume and roadway is potentially going to be slippery this time of year. You just have to take additional steps to ensure your safety ... But you have to assume your reaction time is decreased when you're drinking alcohol." Winter weather or not, those with even the slightest amount of alcohol in their system should not take the risk, said Maj. Smith. "If you're drinking, you shouldn't be driving, no matter how much you've had to drink," said Maj. Smith. "If you have to go somewhere alone, and you decide to have a drink, you have to respect the notion your ability to drive a vehicle is impaired by as little as one drink. The amount of impairment varies between operators depending upon your size, the amount of food consumed, the amount of time since you consumed the alcohol and you operate your motor vehicle." If you do make the decision to get behind the wheel after having that "one for the road," be prepared to be pulled over, said Maj. Smith. "We will be out there and we will arrest every individual we come in contact with that's driving while intoxicated," Maj. Smith said bluntly. Motorists believed to be under the influence can expect to be subject to questions from law enforcement officials such as how much they've had to drink and when they last had something to drink. Those believed to be under the influence will also be subject to roadside sobriety tests, with those who fail being placed under arrest. The arrested can expect to be submitted to a breathalyzer test to determine the person's blood alcohol content, be fingerprinted, and issued a ticket to appear in local criminal court to answer of charges ranging from driving while intoxicated to driving while ability impaired and driving under the influence, among others. Subsequent consequences can include the loss of your driver's license, paying a monetary fine, being required to attend schooling for education on DWI, and increased premiums for or loss of auto insurance coverage, said Maj. Smith. The greatest loss, however, can be that of a life due to an impaired driver, he said. "The holidays are generally a great period of elation, happiness, familial commitment and celebration, but there will be families this holiday season who will have tragedy imposed upon them by poor decision making and the use of alcohol," said Maj. Smith. "If you drink and you drive, and your ability to operate your vehicle is impaired, you basically take your life, any of your passengers' lives, and those of any other operator and passengers in any other vehicles into your own hands." "When you drink and you drive, you basically make the decision that other people's lives mean less to you than your own," he added. In the United States, more than 45,000 fatalities have occurred on that nation's roadways, with a large percentage attributed to alcohol-related incidents, said Maj. Smith. In Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties alone, there have been 34 motor vehicle accident deaths this year, some of which have been attributed to alcohol use and could have been prevented, he said. As a measure of assisting motorists in the City of Plattsburgh, the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti LLP is working with Plattsburgh City Taxi and local taverns and restaurants to offer free cab rides home to locals who may have had too many holiday spirits. Through Jan. 1, patrons in Plattsburgh who might be unable to drive because of drinking will be treated to a free cab ride home by calling 1-800-LAW-1010.

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