Fearing a surge in drunk driving, Clinton County officials urge July 4 partygoers to plan ahead

Local News

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – A lot of people may be seeing close friends and family for the first time in awhile this weekend as America celebrates Independence Day, but the return of big parties, fireworks displays and other events has local law enforcement concerned about how you’re getting home.

The Fourth of July is considered one of the deadliest holidays of the year when it comes to drunk driving crashes, and with that in mind, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office has gone all in on New York’s ‘STOP-DWI Engagement Campaign’. Officers told us when it comes to drunk driving, prevention is a powerful tool.

“People that become impaired by whatever substance they’re taking, alcohol, wine, they generally don’t know the level of impairment they’re truly at,” said Chief Deputy Nicholas Leon. “They may feel okay, but they’re most likely not. Have a plan, that way you don’t put yourself or the public in a situation where somebody can be killed under impaired driving.”

The Clinton County Sheriff’s Office wants you to have a plan before you celebrate the holiday, and as part New York’s STOP-DWI blitz, there’s even an app that’ll help you do that. The ‘Have a Plan’ app can connect you to a safe ride home, and it’s also an education tool.

“You can find a taxi, you can find a rideshare such as Uber, and there’s phone numbers,” said Deputy Russel Haag. “There’s a couple little games on there you can play as well. We’re just doing everything we can for New York State’s STOP-DWI to try to give those resources to people.”

Haag also serves as Clinton County’s STOP-DWI Coordinator. He said app or no app, there’s a way for you to get home safely. From 2015 to 2019, 38 percent of drivers killed in a vehicle crash during the Fourth of July holiday period were drunk behind the wheel.

“It’s as simple as just call a friend, call a parent,” Deputy Haag said. “Trust me, they would much rather you call them to come pick you up than to have me or one of my officers going to their door saying that they’ve been involved in a motor vehicle crash and may not have survived, and they were impaired while doing it.”

Every Fourth of July brings a heightened concern when it comes to drunk driving, but this year in particular, officers fear there’s a lot of pent up energy that could play out on the roads.

“We highly expect there’s going to be a lot more travel, a lot more gatherings, a lot of people getting together to do the things they haven’t done in so long,” Deputy Haag said.

“The likelihood that people may not have the same tolerances, or they might partake in something they normally wouldn’t just for the sheer joy of seeing other human beings makes it quite an interesting prospect for how the weekend can go,” Chief Deputy Leon said.

The STOP-DWI campaign begins on July 2, and will end on July 5. Because the holiday falls on a Sunday, officials are expecting heavy traveling to begin on Friday into Saturday.

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