Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey Highlights Importance of Preventing Drunk Driving during the Holiday Season

December 22, 2014
Press Release

Federal grants in 2015 spending bill to local organizations help prevent underage drinking and substance abuse

Local law enforcement demonstrate DWI truck used by officers when responding to drunk driving accidents

NEW CITY, NY– Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, today was joined by local Rockland law enforcement officials, Westchester MADD President Carole Sears, and Rockland MADD representative Sharon Hittman to spread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving during the holidays.

“The holidays are a time when many people are attending parties and social events where alcohol is consumed and,unfortunately,this means that there is spike in drunk driving incidents,” said Lowey. “The 2015 spending billI negotiated that wassigned into law last week contained critical funding to help educate teens about the dangers of alcohol and driving drunkas well as efforts to create a new technology for vehicles to prevent drunk driving. I am hopeful that through continued federal government support for these programs, we can put an end to drunk drivingand, in the next Congress, I’ll continue to make combating drunk driving a priority.”

Lowey was a lead negotiator during the 2015 spending bill that was signed into law by the President last week. The bill includes funding for federal grants to help educate teens about the dangers of alcohol and driving drunk.

  • Three grantees in Westchester and Rockland Counties will receive over $140,000 through the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP) Grant program to partner with local schools and community groups to educate teens in our area. The enactment of the spending bill will allow these programs to continue receiving federal assistance. Wellcore, Inc. (South Orangetown) in Rockland County receives $48,258, while Family Services of Westchester (Port Chester) and Student Assistance Services Corporation (Tarrytown) of Westchester County receive $48,258 and $47,250, respectively, under this program.
  • The spending bill supports another important program called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to work with automakers to create a new technology for vehicles that will instantaneously and passively detect if a driver is drunk. Ideally, this technology would be available one day in brand new cars, potentially saving thousands of lives.

Rockland MADD representative Sharon Hittman and Westchester MADD President Carole Sears, who lost her husband, Andy, in a November 2002 car accident with a drunk driver, said, “The pain inflicted on communities by drinking and driving never goes away. We must do all we can to prevent situations where we are putting our neighbors and loved ones in severe jeopardy. I’m grateful for the efforts of our local law enforcement officers and Congresswoman Lowey’s leadership on making sure we keep drunk drivers off the streets.”

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe, Orangetown Police Sergeant John Purcell, Village of South Nyack Chief of Police Brent Newbury, Haverstraw Police Lieutenant Marty Lund, Stony Point Chief of Police Brian Moore, Rockland County Sheriff’s Police Division Chief William Barbera, and Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco III discussed prevention and enforcement measures for the holiday season, and Sheriff Falco demonstrated the County’s DWI truck. The truck is a mobile processing van and serves as an efficient, one-stop shop for officers to process drunk driving incidents. Officers can capture breath samples, photos, finger prints, DMV info, and create reports quickly using digital platforms. After processing, drivers are either cleared or released to a third-party to take them home, or they are taken to the police station for further processing. The DWI van is funded through the STOP DWI program, a county-wide initiative that is not funded with taxpayer dollars, but rather the fees collected from drunk driving convictions.

In addition to reminding all drivers to drive sober, Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco III is calling on everyone to be alert.  If people see a drunk driver on the road, call the police right away – a life could be saved.  If someone you know is about to drive after drinking, take their keys and help them get home safely.  “We’ve got to work together to make our roads safer this December and year-round,” Falco said.

According to statistics compiled by New York State, 1,444 alcohol-related traffic tickets were issued in Rockland County in 2012, down from 1,945 in 2010. In neighboring Westchester County, 3,673 alcohol-related tickets were issued, down from 4,354 in 2010. In 2012, Rockland County saw 163 total alcohol-related crashes, including six fatal accidents, while in the same year Westchester had  387 alcohol-related crashes with 10 of those proving fatal.

Congresswoman Lowey has been a leader in enacting strong laws to keep unsafe drivers off the road.  In 2000, Lowey successfully passed legislation requiring states to enact a maximum Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of .08 as a condition of receiving federal transportation assistance, which prompted all 50 states and the District of Columbia to implement this commonsense policy. In July 2014, Lowey introduced Alisa’s Law, a bill that would encourage states to require the use of ignition interlock devices for a minimum of six months for all convicted drunk driving offenders. This type of approach has proven successful in New York since the state passed “Leandra’s Law” in 2010.