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Looking closer at DWI checkpoints after successful campaign over Labor Day weekend

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each day, 28 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. That means one person dies at the hands of alcohol impaired driving every 53 minutes.

What does it cost?

The CDC estimates that the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion annually. The costs run far beyond the driver, who is making a risky choice for more than just their own person when they get behind the wheel and drive under the influence of alcohol.

In Seneca Falls, 51 arrests for driving while intoxicated have been made in 2016. While the Seneca Falls Police Department is considered the leading agency for DWI enforcement in Seneca County, it comes with it’s own set of challenges.

While numbers had not yet been released for the month of August – arrests for driving while intoxicated were up in July, which some could assume is due to summer weather. July saw 12 arrests for driving while intoxicated, which was up from the monthly average of 6-8 arrests.

Labor Day weekend is part of a nationwide “DWI Crackdown Campaign,” which exists to drive more awareness around impaired and distracted driving. Seneca Falls Police Chief Stuart Peenstra said, “With technology today checkpoints are more for education/awareness.” He eluded that social media has an “information sharing” impact on those checkpoints.

Others in the law enforcement community believe that while drivers may be more aware of the checkpoints — thanks in part to social media — it still is a crucial part of the process. Peenstra agreed with that, pointing out that the awareness is important for those in the community, so that they know law enforcement is taking DWI seriously.

“We have many individuals in vehicles pass through [checkpoints] thanking us for doing them and making our roads safer in the process,” Peenstra explained.

There are a total of eight DWI Crackdown campaigns, which are held throughout the year around major holidays. They focus on times when people are traveling most from place-to-place — around holidays like Labor Day, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving.

The next DWI Crackdown event will take place in October when Halloween arrives. The event will run from October 28 to 31, which will give law enforcement another opportunity to get out in the community.

The overwhelming consensus around these types of events is that they have a positive impact on the community through connection. While the immediate inconvenience of being slowed down on a holiday weekend is just that, an inconvenience — it remains one that statistically keeps motorists safer on the road.

According to the CDC, checkpoints reduce alcohol-related fatal, injury, and property damage crashes each by about 20 percent. Similarly, the impact on crashes in general — is a 10 to 15 percent reduction, according to national statistics.

The CDC also says that the increased spending in statewide and national campaigns sees increased effectiveness at reducing alcohol-related accidents.

Even in a small community like Seneca Falls, the dozens that are arrested each year for driving while intoxicated serve as a reminder that it isn’t worth the risk. By executing these crackdown campaigns — law enforcement is able to keep roadways safer — when the highest density of drivers are on the road.

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