Western New York motorists expecting to enjoy July 4 fireworks may end up also witnessing legal fireworks for impaired, distracted, aggressive or reckless driving as a result of intensified New York State Police road checks throughout the holiday weekend, according to Major Michael J. Cerretto, commander of State Police Troop A, headquartered at Batavia.
Drivers, as a result of the special traffic enforcement efforts planned for the holiday period, can expect to see a number of sobriety checkpoints, additional DWI patrols and underage drinking and sales-to-minors state police operations throughout the holiday period. Major Cerretto also recommends drivers remember to put down their electronic devices, cell phones and other devices, and remember to “move over” for stopped emergency and hazard vehicles that have pulled over on to the sides of the road.
During the upcoming campaign troopers will be using both marked State Police vehicles and what the major described as Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) vehicles. The concealed vehicles allow troopers to more easily identify motorists using handheld devices while driving. The major said the concealed state police vehicles will “blend in with everyday traffic.” But he said the concealed vehicles become “unmistakable emergency vehicles once their emergency lighting is activated” to deal with a situation.
Major Cerretto said national data shows the 4th of July holiday period is especially dangerous, with 179 people killed in crashes nationwide in 2012 with 44 percent of those crashed being alcohol-impaired, according to the latest data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Penalties for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired by drugs in New York State include the loss of driving privileges, fines, and a possible jail term, the major noted. Also, depending on the violation drivers face up to seven years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000 and permanent revocation of a driver’s license.
A driver caught using a handheld device while driving faces up to 5 points on his or her driver’s license, fines up to $400 and a $93 surcharge.
For young drivers with only a probationary license, or Class DJ, MJ or a learner’s permit a conviction will result in mandatory 60-day license or permit suspension for a first offense and a second such conviction within six months results in a revocation of driving privileges for at least 6 months for a probationary license holder or revocation of at least 60 days for a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner’s permit, the major noted.
The major said the state police and the NHTSA recommend these tips to prevent drunk driving during the holiday period and otherwise: Plan a safe way home before the fun begins; designate a sober driver before drinking; use a taxi if impaired or call a sober friend or family member or use public transportation; make use of community sober ride programs; if spotting a drunk driver on the road contact local law enforcement; if you see a friend about to drive or ride while impaired take their car keys and help them make other arrangements of travel.
“The State Police will be out during this campaign enforcing the laws in order to keep us all safe during this Fourth of July holiday,” Major Cerretto said. “Driving while intoxicated or distracted is not only dangerous to the motoring public, it is also dangerous while boating, riding dirt bikes or ATVs,” he noted.
“Throughout Western New York we will all be enjoying the Fourth of July Holiday weekend so let’s make it safe for everyone by not drinking and driving and staying attentive by not texting or talking on the phone,” the major said.