OSWEGO – The Oswego County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee recently delivered a proclamation marking November as STOP-DWI Month.
The presentation recognized the critical importance of the Special Traffic Options Program for Driving While Intoxicated (STOP-DWI) in the lives of children, families and communities throughout the county.
“This is an initiative passed by the state Legislature in 1981 to empower local counties to coordinate their efforts in reducing drug- and alcohol-related traffic accidents,” said Oswego County Legislator Terry Wilbur, District 21, chairman of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee. “It’s the nation’s first – and only – self-sustaining impaired driving program, funded by fines of drivers convicted of DWI, and not through taxpayer dollars.”
He added, “Just from 1988 to 2017, the county has collected more than $9 million in fines to cover the costs associated with maintaining the STOP-DWI program.”
The primary objective of the program is to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and injuries caused by impaired driving.
Efforts include raising awareness through public education, utilizing law enforcement to decrease impaired driving, and probation and rehabilitation to lower repeated offences.
“This was a great opportunity for us to reflect on the last 30-plus years to see where we’ve been able to affect real change for the benefit of our communities,” said STOP-DWI Program Coordinator Robert J. Lighthall.
DWI arrests have been reduced by roughly half, according to Lighthall.
He said, “In the 1980s and 1990s, there were nearly 1,000 arrests each year for driving while impaired offenses. In the last five years, there have been, on average, less than 500 arrests each year.”
Another impressive statistic is the reduction of impaired driving fatalities by 74 percent since the beginning of the STOP-DWI initiative.
In the 1980s, there were more than 30 automobile fatalities with more than a dozen of these were related to drug or alcohol use each year in Oswego County.
From 2017 to 2018 there were seven motor vehicle accidents which claimed the lives of 10 people; however, none of these accidents were drug- or alcohol-related.
Lighthall said, “While our numbers certainly show that the program has made significant progress over the last three decades, we’re not going to say that we’re done here. We need to continue to maintain a vigilant eye toward reducing impaired driving to ensure public safety.”
Studies have shown that drivers arrested on a charge of DWI have attested to driving impaired more than 80 times before being apprehended.
In 2017, there were 473 DWI arrests, which translates to those drivers having driven while impaired more than 37,000 times before being apprehended.
“It is especially important this time of year, to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving. It takes a community effort and we appreciate the support of many individuals and organizations that help to spread this message,” said Lighthall.
For more information about the STOP-DWI program, call 315-349-3210.