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Drunk driving oversight, enforcement: How is New York doing?

Any discussion of drunk driving in New York can commence with this reasoned premise: There are a lot of drunk drivers on state roadways.

Empirical evidence -- primarily DWI arrests and convictions, along with crash-related findings that point to the actions of an inebriated motorist -- supports that assertion. So, too, does simple extrapolation: It flatly stands to reason that New York has a comparatively high number of motorists who occasionally drive while under the influence of alcohol; after all, the state commands one of the largest populations in the country.

How are state enforcement officials doing in their efforts to combat drunk driving in New York? Are there measurable yardsticks for gauging performance and, if so, how does New York stack up compared with other states across the country?

The answers to those questions: Yes, the anti-drunk driving group MADD lists several factors by which it measures the efficacy of state authorities’ enforcement efforts, and New York comes out pretty well in MADD’s judgment in combating drunk driving in the state.

It could do better, though. MADD has created a five-star system by which it measures states’ enforcement measures against drunk drivers. The advocacy group awarded New York four stars in its 2015 DWI-related report. Thirteen states were given five stars.

New York was given a positive review for its ignition interlock law; the sobriety checkpoints that are operative within the state; officers’ authority to immediately revoke drunk drivers’ licenses; and its law that equates inebriated driving with a child in the car as child abuse.

The one star that is missing relates to so-called “no-refusal events.” MADD officials would like to see New York authorities implement a program that allows for expedited warrant issuance enabling the blood alcohol testing of any stopped driver who refuses to consent to a test.

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