Police agencies throughout Erie County have launched their holiday DWI enforcement campaign. With the financial support of a recently acquired grant to Erie County, additional patrols will be on the road from now through January 2.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, surrounded by representatives of numerous municipal police departments within the county, announced that there's some good news when it comes to DWI arrests. The number is down. So, too, are the number of DWI-related fatal crashes.
"But, and this is a big but, there are still individuals who are driving or getting behind the wheel of an automobile who are either under the influence of alcohol or, often seen today, are under the influence of drugs, which can be just as bad or even worse than being udner the influence of alcohol," Poloncarz said.
An estimated 15 to 18 percent of DWI arrests in the county are for cases of intoxication by substances other than alcohol.
In addition to police diligence, officials credit the reduction in DWI arrests and fatalities to additional alternatives such as ride-hailing, which joined traditional taxis on local roadways earlier this year.
The public's increasing awareness and willingness to intervene is also credited. James Jancewicz, the commissioner of Erie County's Central Police Services, says decades of awareness campaigns have paid off, as the public has made drinking and driving socially unacceptable in any situation.
"We encourage the public to please talk about this issue," Jancewicz said. "If you're going to be out celebrating the holiday season, spending time with friends and family and drinking alcohol, talk about it ahead of time. Either use one of the services that are out there to get home safely or designate someone to be a non-drinker and to get you home safely."
Officials say the cost of a DWI case, including arrest and conviction, ranges from $12,000 to $15,000 for the person caught. Poloncarz said there are other costs that cannot be measured in dollar amounts, such as the loss of life.