Garcia noted alcohol-related traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people ages 16-25 in the United States. Essex County is no exception.
More arrests and fewer plea bargains will likely mean more trials, Garcia said. Her office will absorb the increased work load and costs by collecting DWI fines, she said.
There are approximately 45,000 DWI arrests in New York State each year, Garcia said. That number has held steady the past decade.
"DWI has been a huge problem in our country for decades, Garcia said. "I"m amazed we haven't been more aggressive in increasing the penalties. Obviously, we're doing something wrong.
"We need to change the way people think of DWI," she said. "Too many people see it as an inconvenience rather than a crime.
"The only way the numbers will ever come down is to get the (state) legislature to pass a law that mandates jail for first time offenders. If people know they'll go to jail, they'll think twice about it."
Garcia said there are many more drunk drivers on the roads than those arrested.
"We have 300 arrests, but there are probably three or four times that many on our roads," she said. "Do we have to wait until it happens to someone we know or love to become passionate about it? I don't think so. Enough is enough. I feel strongly about this."
Garcia said she strongly supports efforts to prevent under-age drinking.
"We we can educate our young people about the dangers of under-age drinking we're reaching future adults and preventing future drinking and driving," she said.